VATICAN CITY – Catholic bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays Saturday. Showing deep divisions at the end of the Vatican synod, which was sought by Pope Francis in part to chart a more merciful approach to homosexuals, the bishops failed to approve even a watered-down section on ministering to gay Catholics.
The earlier version spoke of “accepting and valuing their sexual orientations” and giving gays “a welcoming home”. Midway through the summit, a draft document was released proposing remarkably progressive plans for the Catholic Church, saying unmarried couples living together can be ‘positive’, and gay relationships and divorcees must be welcomed. However, the final version eliminated those phrases and most of the other language that church progressives and gay rights groups had hailed as a breakthrough.
This matter could be seen from different viewpoints. Christ wanted his church to be a house with the door always open to welcome everyone, without excluding anyone. Nevertheless, conservatives had harshly criticized the draft on the basis of current church doctrine: that gay sex is “intrinsically disordered”, but that gays themselves are to be respected, and that marriage is only between a man and woman.
“Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn’t been these … animated discussions … or if everyone had been in agreement or silent in a false and acquiescent peace,” Francis told the synod hall after the vote.
It appeared that the 118-62 vote on the gay section might have been a protest vote by progressive bishops who refused to back the watered-down wording. The original draft had said gays had gifts to offer the church and that their partnerships, while morally problematic, provided gay couples with ‘precious’ support. Regarding the summit result, Francis insisted in the name of transparency that the full document be published with the voting tally.