According to a new document from the Vatican, gay people “have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.” This drew quite mixed responses from some Catholics in the U.S. on Monday. On one hand, liberal Catholic leaders considered the statement to be a significant step to a more inclusive environment for gays and lesbians, while conservatives called it a betrayal of traditional family values.
The Catholic Church, which previously condemned homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered,” is therefore making an important compromise.
The document, prepared after a week of discussions at an assembly of 200 bishops on the family, said the Church should challenge itself to find “a fraternal space” for homosexuals without compromising Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony.
“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home,” it said in a “relatio,” a document released at the half-way point of the Synod, a preliminary discussion draft that will likely form the basis of the final address, to be issued after the closed-door Synod wraps up.
While the Vatican does not consider homosexual desires inherently sinful, gay sex is considered sinful. Yet, Pope Francis already signaled a potentially less condemnatory stance last year, famously saying, “Who am I to judge?” when questioned about celibate gay men becoming priests.
Moreover the bishops repeated that gay marriage was off the table. But it acknowledged that gay partnerships had merit. “Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions, it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners,” they said.
For heterosexuals, the bishops said the church must grasp the “positive reality of civil weddings” and even cohabitation, with the aim of helping the couple commit eventually to a church wedding.
The schism between progressive leaders and traditional ones in the Church may have been behind the Pope’s decision last Friday to add six additional clerics to the committee writing the final draft of the document, which will be released Saturday.