The Catholic Church, which previously condemned homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered,” is considering embracing homosexual believers, as well as partially accepting same-sex, and other religiously unsanctioned partnerships.
“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 two-week discussion of Catholicism and personal relationships at the Vatican, attended by 200 senior bishops.
“Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”
The Synod, which has been attended by Pope Francis, has also recognized the validity of gay relationships, though it stopped far short of equating them to marriage.
“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,” said the relatio, which is 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 homosexual desires are not considered inherently sinful by the Vatican, gay sex is. 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. In a last-minute move, the pontiff personally introduced several of his theological allies into the relatio drafting committee last week.
QUEST, a long-established gay Catholic group, said the new statements “represent a breakthrough in that they acknowledge that such unions have an intrinsic goodness and constitute a valuable contribution to wider society and the common good.”
Meanwhile, David and Jonathan, a gay Christian association in France, said it received the news “with joy.”
“The fact that we are even on the agenda is amazing…” said spokeswoman Elizabeth Saint-Guily.
The Synod has also called for the application of the “law of gradualness,” with unconventional family situations – be it marriages conducted without a church blessing or co-habitation – to be seen in nuanced, not black-and-white terms. Priests are encouraged to nurture “constructive elements in those situations that do not yet or no longer correspond to that ideal,” instead of “alienating” believers by telling them they are “living in sin.”
“Each damaged family first of all should be listened to with respect and love, becoming companions on the journey as Christ did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus,” said the relatio, which insisted that the church must “accept the reality” of modern relationships.
The relatio did not shift its fundamental opposition of birth control, but said that if any such methods are practiced, they must take into account the “dignity of the person,” with natural method the preferred way of avoiding conception.
The conclusions of the meeting will be discussed over the next year, before the definitive document of Pope Francis’s era is published after another Synod.