In a marked shift in tone likely to be discussed in parishes around the world, an assembly of Catholic bishops convened by Pope Francis at the Vatican released a preliminary document on Monday calling for the church to welcome and accept gay people, unmarried couples and those who have divorced, as well as the children of these less traditional families.
The bishops’ report, released midway through a landmark two-week meeting, does not change Roman Catholic doctrine or teaching, and will now be subjected to fierce debate and revision at the assembly.
But it is the first signal that the institutional church may follow the direction Francis has set in the first 18 months of his papacy, away from condemnation of unconventional family situations and toward understanding, openness and mercy.
Previous synods have produced little, but some participants in this one have likened it to the historic Second Vatican Council convened just over 50 years ago, which produced monumental changes in church liturgy, relations with other faiths and the conception of the roles of priests and laypeople.
The 12-page report, written by a committee picked by Francis, says that without abandoning church teaching on the sacrament of marriage, pastors should recognize that there are “positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation.” That is a striking departure from traditional Catholic preaching that such couples are “living in sin.”
The report also says that gay people have “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” and that some gay couples provide one another “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice” and “precious support in the life of the partners.”
The document was read aloud to the nearly 200 bishops gathered at the synod, as the assembly is called. The reading was followed by responses and objections from 41 bishops in the synod hall, a portent of disputes to come.”
The New York Times, "Vatican Signals More Tolerance Towards Gays and Divorce."
This is nice and all, but ask a Catholic priest if they believe gay people will go to Hell. The answer won’t surprise you.