Vatican Taking Softer Stance on Gay People?

A Vatican synod of 200 bishops and cardinals has released a preliminary report calling for the church to take a softer, more compassionate stand on issues involving homosexuality, even noting that gay relationships have many of the same values that straight ones do.

n a dramatic shift in tone, a Vatican document said on Monday that homosexuals had “gifts and qualities to offer” and asked if Catholicism could accept gays and recognize positive aspects of same-sex couples.

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.

While the text did not signal any change in the Church’s condemnation of homosexual acts or its opposition to gay marriage, it used language that was less judgmental and more compassionate than past Vatican statements under previous popes.

The document will be the basis for discussion for the second and final week of the assembly, known as a synod, which was called by Pope Francis and focuses on the theme of the family.

It will also serve for further reflection among Catholics around the world ahead of another, definitive synod next year.

“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,” said the document, known by its Latin name “relatio”.

“Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?” it asked.

John Thavis, Vatican expert and author of the bestselling 2013 book “The Vatican Diaries”, called the document “an earthquake” in the Church’s attitude towards gays.

“The document clearly reflects Pope Francis’ desire to adopt a more merciful pastoral approach on marriage and family issues,” he said…

While the Church continued to affirm that gay unions “cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman”, it should recognize that there could be positive aspects to relationships in same-sex couples.

“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,” the document said.

This is a positive development, though obviously not as far as I’d like them to go. The timing is interesting, coming just a couple days after a high-ranking cardinal said that people should not even allow their children to be around gay relatives, which is a staggeringly dehumanizing statement. The mixed messages continue and I suspect they will for a while.

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  • janiceintoronto

    Talk, just talk. Nothing that actually makes a difference to LGBT people will happen.

    LGBT people who are members of the Catholic church are confused, self-hating, and sick.

  • colnago80

    Re janiceintoronto @ #1

    Including Andrew Sullivan, Michael Heath’s hero.

  • robertfoster

    Isn’t it amazing how a shift in public opinion makes the Catholic Church suddenly more tolerant of gays? You sense the same thing happening with the GOP. I guess it’s a good thing, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get baptized or vote Republican. Memories are long, you know.

  • John Pieret

    Just donning a velvet glove to hide the iron fist.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    This isn’t a done deal yet. An authoritarian organization like the Holy Roman Catholic Church will not change its stance on this issue until it can figure out a way to do it without admitting that it was ever wrong.

  • mcmillan
  • D. C. Sessions

    Isn’t it amazing how a shift in public opinion makes the Catholic Church suddenly more tolerant of gays?

    In the case of the Republicans it’s a simple (and very one-sided) cost/benefit calculation.

    For the Church? Well …

  • lofgren

    Not only is it not a done deal, it’s a preliminary report by a small group of cardinals, which is already being denounced by consertative cardinals.

    This is only slightly more likely to lead to a change in policy as a position statement issued by a Democratic caucus on climate change would be to become policy in the US.

  • birgerjohansson

    “[homosexuals] had “gifts and qualities to offer”, “it should recognize that there could be positive aspects to relationships in [same-sex couples]. Meh.


    As I have mentioned elsewhere, this cautious wording by the Vatican would be more apt if you replaced “homosexuals” with “vampires”. Useful to have around if you need someone with superhuman strength, but not someone you would invite for dinner.

  • doublereed

    How is this a shift in stance or wording or anything? It sounds like more of the same. They’re using slightly softer words? I think people are just trying to see what they want to see.

  • Modusoperandi

    It’s about damn time [a small part of] the Vatican bravely took a [mildly less judgemental] stand [before quickly walking it back]!

  • eric

    The correct theological response seems to me so trivially simple. The church doors open, and you invite sinners in to participate in the religious community. If you think gays are sinners, well, that just gives them the same status as all your straight parishoners. Why wouldn’t you invite them in? Why wouldn’t you acknowledge that a gay man might have ‘gifts and qualities’ the same way the guy who swears constantly still has ‘gifts and qualities’? (And I know the comparison is insulting to gays, I’m trying to point out that even from the church’s perspective, there seems to be no theological reason to reject gay parishoners.)

    This is just personal animus and the ick factor causing people to behave theologicallly inconsistently. ‘Yes, we accept sinners. We recognize that all people have their strengths and weaknesses, and we value their contributions. Except those guys, because, um, uh, ick.’

  • anubisprime

    Just PR a knock knock knocking on the Vatican door….This it is, and nothing more!

  • typecaster

    An authoritarian organization like the Holy Roman Catholic Church will not change its stance on this issue until it can figure out a way to do it without admitting that it was ever wrong.

    It’s an old joke, but most of the Catholics I know tell me that if the Church ever changed it’s mind on something big, such as ordaining women, the announcement would start out “As the Church has always taught….”

  • Johnny Vector


    Aye aye, your grace.


    Sir? I mean, your grace?


    Um, you realize that’s not actually possible, right? The wheel doesn’t have markings that small.

    You see that land over there, cardinal helmsman? That’s the land of we’ve-always-supported-our-homosexual-brothers-and-sisters. We have orders to get there, and I intend to get there faster than we made the trip to Galileo-was-right-after-all-land.

    That took 300 years, sir your grace.


  • theguy

    I hope they actually do something meaningful with this report, but I don’t think it will be meaningful if they still condemn gay marriage or gay sex as a sin leading to eternal punishment.

    Anything short of a complete 180 (which I don’t really expect) would seem hollow to me.

  • LightningRose

    Ed, as so often is the case, you’re behind in the news. The Vatican has already backed away from this document.

  • jeroenmetselaar

    Remember this is the church that in many struggles in the past (from the holocaust to the black rights movement) happily had people playing on both sides afterwards claiming victory with the winner and burying the history of the losers.

    To illustrate: when the priest Titus Brandsma was dying in Dachau Catholic churches in Germany prayed for Hitler on Vatican orders. Brandsma was only recognized a martyr long after the nazi thread was gone.

    They are playing the same long game now. There are people and statements supporting all sides in the gay debate to make sure that whatever side wins they can claim alliance.

    Jesuit politicians think Machiavelli was cute.

  • danrobinson

    I don’t consider it much of a positive development. Just more B.S. I actually think it’s worse. Now catholic apologists can claim progress where there is none.