Furthermore, critics say that using LGBT language has become the shorthand for an effort to import the identity politics of the West into the Church's thinking and language. Those in favor of adopting the acronym into the Church's official vocabulary maintain that it represents no shift in Church teaching, only a posture of dialogue and respect.
What defines us?
Synod bishops seem to be uniformly interested in addressing the question of how to present the Church's teaching on sexuality to young people raised in a culture defined by identity politics, which frames issues like same-sex marriage as a matters of "human rights."
But the consensus breaks down around proposals that seem to adopt contemporary language of sexuality as language of identity.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia used one of his interventions during the synod to highlight, in stark terms, what he sees as the fallacy behind the "LGBT" label.
"There is no such thing as an 'LGBTQ Catholic' or a 'transgender Catholic' or a 'heterosexual Catholic,'" Chaput told the synod, "as if our sexual appetites defined who we are; as if these designations described discrete communities of differing but equal integrity within the real ecclesial community, the body of Jesus Christ."
As many Western countries have learned in recent years, the fracturing of a common identity into smaller constituency bases comes with a direct loss of unity for the whole. In the context of the Church, some bishops argue, "sexual identity" language is not a question of inclusion or exclusion, but a matter ecclesiology and human dignity.
Some of the most ardent supporters of LGBT language in the Church have contended that adopting this vocabulary is an essential part of upholding the "dignity" of same-sex attracted Catholics. Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and prominent supporter of this cause, has said that "People have a right to name themselves, and [LGBT] is the name they chose."
Others, like Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, Africa's most prominent cardinal and one of the synod's most outspoken figures, have disputed this argument, pointing out that this kind of language elevates something the Church defines as a disordered inclination into a defining characteristic.
"Why define people by their sexual inclination or preference or practice? Especially when it runs counter to nature, the Church's law, tradition and teaching?" Napier asked on Twitter.
Napier and others argue that the Church recognizes human beings not as they define themselves but as creatures made in God's image. Baptism defines the Christian as a child of God and a member of the Body of Christ in the Church, they say.
(Story continues below)
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Those bishops argue that the language of self-identification, while central to post-Enlightenment liberal thought, squares badly with Catholic theology because it insists that human beings are defined by their desires rather than by the fact that they are creatures made in the image of their creator.
LGBT terminology, they say, advances the idea of a "dignity of difference" rooted in a particular sexual desire, rather than common dignity derived from the unity of bearing God's image.
Tempest in a Teapot?
While debate about an acronym might seem like a tempest in a teapot, many bishops argue that those four letters suggest a worldview in which man is defined in relation to himself and other people, but not God.
As one synod-watcher succinctly put it to CNA: "Paraphrasing James Carville – it's the anthropology, stupid."
Other bishops have sought to underscore the need for the synod move beyond a narrow debate about a particular kind of terminology.