One of Britain’s top Catholic cardinals has hope that next year's synod will result in a more open and welcoming church for gay and lesbian Catholics.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, said that he was initially disappointed with the first draft of a document summarizing synod proceedings.
The interim document, or relatio, stated that “homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community,” and asked whether the church was capable of “welcoming” them. Although his peers ultimately voted against that language, Nichols actually said that the text didn't go "far enough."
“There were three key words as far as I was concerned … ‘respect’, ‘welcome’ and ‘value,’" Nichols said during a BBC Radio 4 interview. “I was looking for those words and they weren’t there and so I didn’t think that was a good paragraph.”
However, Nichols claimed he couldn’t remember how he cast his vote.
“I’m not kidding you, I actually can’t remember which way I voted,” Nichols said. “We had 60 votes in about 40 minutes.”
Still, Nichols said that he wasn’t “satisfied” with the text because it “didn’t include those words strongly enough.”
Reflecting his trust in the synod process, the cardinal said that he wasn't worried about what would happen in the future. He emphasized that the meeting of the top brass of the Catholic Church wasn’t a democracy, but rather a process of discerning what exactly the Holy Spirit required.
“I don’t think that the interim document was well-drafted at all and it set up something which in the course of the week, bishops in the synod rather reacted against because they didn’t recognize themselves in it,” Nichols said. “We don’t work by lobbying and pressure groups, we work by sitting down and honestly talking with each other and that’s why these last two weeks have actually been a very good experience.”
In his own archdiocese, Nichols has been criticized for his eagerness to reach out to gays and lesbians, according to the Guardian. For six years, Nichols staunchly defended masses in a Soho church that welcomed gay, lesbian, and transgender Catholics.
In 2010, he lashed out at his critics by saying, "Anybody from the outside who is trying to cast a judgment on the people who come forward for communion really ought to learn to hold their tongue."
Nichols shut down the Soho masses in January 2013, "reputedly because of pressure from the Vatican and an outcry from traditionalist British Catholics who disapproved of what they saw as a celebration of homosexuality," the Guardian reports.
The cardinal is now saying that this synod is "not an end" to the discussion because Pope Francis has torn up "the rule book."
He's hoping that next year will see a more inclusive church.
“I would hope so – and I would expect a similar level of honest, open, pensive and very, very charitable exchange of views in order to discern a way forward,” Nichols said.
Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and the editor-at-large of America Magazine, said the Nichols' comments gave him hope that the topic would be discussed more openly as the church prepares for the 2015 session.
"It also gives me hope that the next session might find a pastoral way to express a real welcome to LGBT Catholics," Martin told the Huffington Post.