Conservatives have fired the first shot in the culture battles Roman Catholic bishops are taking up at their synod on family issues at the Vatican this month, with Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo speaking out against gay relationships in his opening address.
Erdo, whose role as general relator is to guide the synod's work, reaffirmed the church's opposition to such relationships in the speech Monday morning, reports Crux, a website devoted to news about Catholicism.
"There is no basis for comparing or making analogies, even remotely, between homosexual unions and God's plan for matrimony and the family," he said. He was "quoting a 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," Crux notes.
Erdo also said international groups should not demand that developing countries recognize same-sex marriage as a condition of receiving aid. He did, however, cite church doctrine "to the effect that 'unjust discrimination' against gays and lesbians is wrong," Crux reports.
Additionally, his address included statements reasserting the church's opposition to contraception, abortion, and access to communion by Catholics who are divorced and remarried, sending a signal that conservatives plan to take the offense rather than the defense, according to the site.
In the previous family synod, a year ago, Erdo and his fellow conservatives "appeared to be sidelined by more progressive prelates, especially Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte, in producing a controversial interim report calling for greater openness on divorce, homosexuality, and other hot-button topics," Crux reports. (That progressive language was taken out when the report was finalized.) "If the opening day of Synod 2015 is any indication, Erdo has no intention of letting that happen again."
Meanwhile, in celebrating Mass for synod participants Sunday, Pope Francis appeared to walk a fine line, upholding long-standing church doctrine while seeking to welcome a diverse population of Catholics. He offered "a stirring defense of traditional marriage coupled with an insistence that the Church must, at the same time, be merciful and compassionate to those who struggle," another Crux article notes.
The church is "not a museum to keep or preserve," he said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "It's a place where the holy people of God move forward." He added that the church must have "its doors open to welcome all those who knock" and not "point the finger in judgment," language that may encourage those who support a more inclusive approach to LGBT people.
LGBT issues are likely to figure importantly in the synod, which comes shortly after the pope's visit to the United States -- a visit in which he met both with antigay Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and with a gay couple. It also comes just after the Vatican fired a priest who came out as gay and partnered.
"The emotional intensity of the synod is amped up because of perceptions that the pope's position is still a work in progress," wrote commentator John Allen on Crux. "Whenever topics such as homosexuality and divorce are on the docket, feelings will run strong. What's new now is a sense, however exaggerated, that movement might actually be possible. That's elicited strong passions both from those who see such movement as desirable, and those who view it as alarming."
The synod, involving 360 bishops from around the world, continues through October 25.