Pope Francis greets people as he visits Cassano allo Ionio, in Italy's Calabria region, June 21, 2014. On his left is Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano allo Ionio. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic New Service

Catholic Church must welcome 'unconventional couples,' says top Italian bishop

ROME (RNS) The Catholic Church should make "unconventional couples" feel at home instead of making them targets of "de facto discrimination," the leader of the Italian Bishops Conference and an ally of Pope Francis said this week.

Pope Francis greets people as he visits Cassano allo Ionio, in Italy's Calabria region, June 21, 2014. On his left is Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano allo Ionio. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic New Service

Pope Francis greets people as he visits Cassano allo Ionio, in Italy's Calabria region, June 21, 2014. On his left is Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano allo Ionio. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic New Service

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"Couples in irregular matrimonial situations are also Christians, but they are sometimes looked upon with prejudice," said Bishop Nunzio Galantino, an apparent reference to divorced and remarried Catholics.

"The burden of exclusion from the sacraments is an unjustified price to pay, in addition to de facto discrimination," he said Wednesday (Aug. 27) in an address to a national conference on liturgy in the Italian hill town of Orvieto.

Galantino was Francis' choice in March to lead the fractious Italian hierarchy, and from the beginning the bishop has adopted the pontiff’s inclusive approach. That has often landed Galantino in hot water, as he has spoken about the need for the church to welcome gays and to consider optional celibacy for the priesthood.

But Galantino has not softened his views, which are especially newsworthy because in October the Vatican will host a major conference of the world's top bishops, called a synod, to discuss issues facing the modern family.

How to deal with gay and cohabiting couples is a likely topic of discussion, but the question of whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried without an annulment can take Communion has emerged as a focal point of disputes among bishops.

That's because the issue is a test case of whether the church under Francis will, or can, change its policies relating to the central sacrament of Communion. Some say such a change is impossible, while others say that changes are not only possible but imperative given that so many couples have divorced and remarried and feel alienated from the church.

Galantino's remarks were widely reported in Italian media, including Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian hierarchy, and were translated by the Italian news agency ANSA.

In his talk, Galantino, who is secretary-general of the Italian Bishops Conference, stressed that everyone should "feel at home" in the church, and especially at Mass -- including migrants, the disabled, the poor and those in unconventional relationships.

He spoke about the need for churches to make their buildings accessible for those with disabilities, for example, and said Catholics should take care that the poor are not treated differently from the wealthy at Mass.

But he appeared to send a strong message about divorced and remarried Catholics who are excluded from the sacraments.

“They live in their situation with great suffering," he said, "and they perceive the church's regulations as very severe, not compassionate if not punitive.”



  1. It’s coming towards you, Catholic friends. It’s coming towards you on the installment plan. Or perhaps on the frog-in-the-kettle plan. But surely, it is heading straight towards you.

    A gay-marriage Pope really DID get elected this time, and he is quite serious about evolving your favorite church in THAT specific direction. No joke.

    I don’t know exactly what rank-and-file Catholics can do about this dangerous trend at this point. This entire Pope gig tends to be a “No Refunds – All Sales Final” arrangement, doesn’t it?

    Nevertheless, at least the first step is awareness. Just be aware that you wouldn’t even be reading RNS stories like the above, under John Paul II or Benedict XIV.

    But Francis is the Pope now, and if you don’t get seriously pro-active in the coming months, “Gay-Marriage” will soon be your Pope !!

  2. The Catholic Church would be much more like its claimed founder if it left it up to members to decide for themselves how they live and follow Jesus. Don’t presume it’s a favor to “accept” homosexuals. They have been a big part of the church from the start.

    More important, straights, by genetics and/or culture, cause homosexuality. So do not make them and then throw them away. Straights must admit they do not understand sexuality, then study it before attempting to legislate it.

    ‘Optional celibacy?” The sex scandal has proven what a farce legislated celibacy has always been. It’s contrary to nature to even consider legislating any sexual behavior unless that behavior is a violation of the rights of another. Just end celibacy. Clergy interested in marrying, will marry, even bishops. Those not interested, will remain unmarried. Hopefully, all will abstain from violating anyone else.

    Most important, the crimes of the bishops in hiding the sex crimes of priests or other bishops, married or unmarried, must come to a screeching halt.

  3. Doc Anthony proves that he knows nothing about sexuality other than his own interests. He knows nothing of the biology or sociology or psychology of sexuality.

    Doc Anthony’s writing, as with all prejudice, is based on illiteracy. No efforts at being “cute” can soften the damage it might cause. The most harmful prejudice is that which presumes that everyone different than you is faulty, like people of a different skin color, people of different sexual attractions, people with different eye shapes, or people of different beliefs.

    One should get the facts before making generalized statements because such statements will betray a sad illiteracy that results in harmful, cruel prejudice, and illiteracy and its prejudice cause cruel actions. That prejudice can be spread just like any good gospel.

    You are in a desperate need of much more study before you write, Doc Anthony. Perhaps the cruel humor will then be replaced with greater, rational, respectful understanding.

  4. You know, when I consider this photo of Bishop Galantino and Pope Francis, perhaps even a consideration of their different titles, I wonder why Catholic clerics continue to wear different costumes to show their rankings in the culture.

    Perhaps it’s time to just wear the clothes of the time and culture. Clerics could be clerics even if they wore business suits–or dresses–or other clothes of the times.

  5. Romans 8:5
    Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
    Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a just man on earth, that does good, and sins not.
    Romans 7:23
    but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

    My point is any lust after flesh is against the Spirit, but pointing at another person for committing sin does no good and is a sin in itself. Judge not lest ye be judged.

  6. Remember Augustine? He was visited by an angel who told him “tolle lege.” Augie then let his bible fall open and John 6 became the core of his theology. That was the birth of magical Christianity, The Plan, Finding Gods Match for You, WWJD, AA, and other bunko squads. Only a Jesuit can turn that around. LOL

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