A panel of high-ranking Catholic officials has proposed a dramatic change in the way the church treats gays and lesbians. The group of Cardinals, known as a synod, suggested the church is capable of “valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine.”
The Cardinals stopped well short of endorsing gay marriage, stating “unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman.” But they also acknowledged, in a section called “Welcoming homosexual persons,” there “are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.” The Cardinals also suggest that same-sex couples should never be discriminated against in ways that could impact their children.
The document was called a “pastoral eathquake” by John Thavis, a prominent journalist who covers the Vatican. It was produced by Pope Francis’s ongoing extraordinary synod on the family. That group previously polled Catholics about their opinions on issues including same-sex marriage, divorce, and contraception. The document produced by the synod, however, does not represent a formal change in church policy.
The document released today is also a preliminary document. Another one will be released at the end of the synod.
The new language is reflective of more inclusive thinking by Pope Francis on homosexuality. Earlier this year, Pope Francis may have hinted at support for civil unions for same-sex couples. Speaking specifically about gay priests last year, Francis said, “Who am I to judge [homosexual priests] if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem… they’re our brothers.”
Pope Francis also recently appointed Bishop Blase Cupich, an outspoken critic of anti-gay bullying, as Archdiocese of Chicago.
Earlier this month, 50 influential conservative christian activists urged “church leaders reiterate a traditional understanding of sexuality and gender roles” at the synod.