Gay people “have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” the Vatican said in a document released Monday, asking Catholics if they can welcome them into the church. The document represents a dramatic shift toward tolerance for a religious body that has shunned gays and lesbians for centuries.
The document was prepared after the first week of the synod, a meeting of 200 bishops. “[A]re we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?” it said.
The document doesn’t change the church’s existing condemnation of homosexual acts and opposition to same-sex marriage, but its nonjudgmental language signals that Pope Francis’ Catholic Church is working to make itself more welcoming as the percentage of Catholics worldwide shrinks and as more legal victories make same-sex marriage legal in the United States, a country with 59 million Catholics.
“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?” the document said.
This summer, Pope Francis first signaled the Church’s shift when he said, “who am I to judge?” referring to celibate, gay priests.
The document will be discussed this week as the synod continues. The document noted that the ideas “are intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches” over the course of the year. “These are not decisions that have been made nor simply points of view.”