By Julissa Catalan
Midway through a two-week Catholic assembly on family issues, the Vatican released a report documenting the conversation thus far between the Pope and 200 bishops—proving that the church is taking a more progressive and compassionate look at the institution of marriage while acknowledging LGBT rights.
Though the document does not call for any immediate changes to the Catholic doctrine, it does suggest that the Church find “a fraternal space” for the LGBT community.
“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities” the report says. “Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony”
While the Church maintained that same-gender unions “cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman,” it does concede that there are positive aspects to same-gender relationships.
“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 reads.
This is considered to be a major breakthrough for the Catholic Church, which prior to Pope Francis’ 2013 election typically used language that condemned same-gender marriage.
Before this, Church reports under former Pope Benedict—who was then head of the Vatican’s doctrinal department—contained language such as “intrinsically disordered” when referring to LGBT people.
Throughout the year, Pope Francis has publicly expressed sensitivity to LGBT rights.
In March, when asked about the Catholic Church’s accepting civil unions for LGBT couples, the Pope said: “We have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety. States, for instance, justify civil unions as a way to provide financial security to cohabitating couples. State-sanctioned unions are thus driven by the need to ensure rights like access to healthcare.”
Meanwhile, in a 2013 news conference, Pope Francis had this to say when questioned on his stance on the LGBT community: “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency is not the problem. They’re our brothers.
“A person’s identity, respect, the dignity and love that he or she deserves, does not depend on anything—sexual orientation, how much money we’ve got, if we’ve got a green card or immigration papers, if we’ve got a stock portfolio. It doesn’t depend on anything other than the fact that we’re a child of God, made in his image.”
The new document will serve as the basis for discussion in Week 2 of the church’s Synod on the Family.