Vatican document challenges Church to change attitude to gays

Mon Oct 13, 2014 6:29pm EDT
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - In a dramatic shift in tone, a Vatican document said on Monday that homosexuals had "gifts and qualities to offer" and asked if Catholicism could accept gays and recognize positive aspects of same-sex couples.

Roman Catholic gay rights groups around the world hailed the paper as a breakthrough, but Church conservatives called it a betrayal of traditional family values.

The document, prepared after a week of discussions at an assembly of 200 bishops on the family, said the Church should challenge itself to find "a fraternal space" for homosexuals without compromising Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony.

While the text did not signal any change in the Church's condemnation of homosexual acts or gay marriage, it used less judgmental and more compassionate language than that seen in Vatican statements prior to the 2013 election of Pope Francis.

"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," said the document, known by its Latin name "relatio".

"Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?" it asked.

New Ways Ministry, a leading U.S. Catholic gay rights group, called it a "major step forward", praising it for being devoid of the "major gloom and doom and apocalyptic horror" that accompanied past Vatican pronouncements on homosexuals.

The London-based Catholic gay rights group QUEST called parts of it "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."   Continued...

Pope Francis looks on as he leads the synod of bishops in Paul VI's hall at the Vatican October 6, 2014. REUTERS/Claudio Peri