A high-ranking Italian bishop is calling on Catholic leaders to be more open to arguments in support of same-sex marriage, ending mandatory celibacy for priests, and communion for divorced people.
Nunzio Galantino, the secretary-general of the Italian bishops’ conference (CEI) and bishop of the southern diocese of Cassano all’Jonio, reportedly told a Florence-based newspaper on Tuesday that Italian church leaders should embrace the more liberal path paved by Pope Francis and pay closer attention to progressive religious arguments.
“With Pope Francis the Italian Church has an extraordinary opportunity to reposition itself on spiritual moral and cultural beliefs,” Galantino said. “My wish for the Italian Church is that it is able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favor of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality.”
The Italian bishop, who Pope Francis permanently appointed as secretary-general of the CEI last month, echoed the pontiff’s belief that the Catholic church is too “obsessed” with debates over abortion and same-sex marriage. Both Galantino and Francis still unequivocally oppose abortion, but appear eager to shift the church’s focus away from traditional “culture war” issues such as homosexuality and reproductive justice and towards conversations about how best to aid the world’s poor, sick, and vulnerable.
“I don’t identify with the expressionless person who stands outside the abortion clinic reciting their rosary, but with young people, who are still against this practice, but are instead fighting for quality of life, their health, their right to work,” Galantino told the newspaper.
Galantino’s comments are noteworthy for two reasons. First, they offer a glimpse into the conversation among Catholic leaders in the lead up to Pope Francis’ Extraordinary Synod for the Family, which is set to be held this October. The gathering will convene a select group of bishops to advise the pontiff on so-called “family issues” such as contraception, married priests, and homosexuality. Pope Francis asked bishops to conduct a global survey of Catholics in preparation for the meeting, the results of which are already exposing a lay Catholic population that is far more progressive on family issues than their church hierarchy. However, Galantino’s remarks hint that progressive lay Catholics might already have substantial support among high-ranking clergy.
Second, Galantino’s prominent position among Italian Catholics gives his relatively open-minded tone added weight, especially since Italian bishops are disproportionately represented in the church’s College of Cardinals. If Galantino’s views prove to be representative of the broader Italian Catholic leadership—and if he and other bishops are swayed by the arguments of progressive Catholics—it could signal a coming shift in the church’s position on homosexuality and married priests, among other issues.
Galantino’s comments also come in the midst of a renewed push by Pope Francis to refocus the church’s energy on economic issues. Last week, the first Argentinean pope called for the “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits,” demanding that world leaders embrace an economic system that adequately cares for the “poorest and those most excluded.”