Vatican document on family revises language on gays
VATICAN CITY - Reuters
Francis arrives to attend an afternoon session of a two-week synod on family issues at the Vatican, Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. AP PhotoThe final version of a controversial Vatican document issued on Saturday radically revised its earlier wording on homosexuals, eliminating language that had talked more positively of them than ever before in church history.
The document, called a "relatio", was issued at the conclusion of a two-week assembly, or synod, of some 200 Roman Catholic bishops from around the world.
After an initial draft was released on Monday, conservative bishops vowed to change the language, saying it had created confusion among the faithful and threatened to undermine the traditional family.
The two-paragraph section of the final document dealing with homosexuals was titled "Pastoral attention towards persons with homosexual orientations". The previous, three-paragraph version had been called "Welcoming homosexuals."
The earlier version spoke of "accepting and valuing their (homosexuals') sexual orientations" and giving gays "a welcoming home". The final version eliminated those phrases and most of the other language that church progressives and gay rights groups had hailed as a breakthrough.
The new version used more vague, general language, repeating earlier church statements that gays "should be welcomed with respect and sensitivity" and that discrimination against gays "is to be avoided".
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group in the United States, said it was "very disappointing that the synod's final report did not retain the gracious welcome to lesbian and gay people that the draft of the report included".
"Instead, the bishops have taken a narrow view of pastoral care by defining it simply as opposition to marriage for same-gender couples," he said.
The final version stressed that "there is no foundation whatsoever" to compare homosexual marriage to heterosexual marriage, calling heterosexual marriage "God's plan for matrimony and the family".
The earlier version said the church should acknowledge that couples in same-sex relations offered "mutual aid" and "precious support" for each other in times of difficulty.
While the original text did not signal any change in the church's condemnation of homosexual acts or gay marriage, it used less judgmental and more compassionate language than that seen in Vatican statements before the 2013 election of Pope Francis.
The Vatican document will now serve for further reflection among Catholics around the world ahead of another, definitive synod next year.