Mixed reception for Vatican’s positive view of LGBTI people

Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Sourcefed.com)
Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Sourcefed.com)

LGBTI rights activists welcomed today’s Roman Catholic Church statement that expressed recognition of positive aspects of LGBTI people and same-sex relationships. Some Catholics weren’t so accepting of the bishops’ words.

The preliminary report, which came in the midst of the ongoing Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family at the Vatican, suggested no change in Catholic opposition to same-sex marriage, but was close in tone of Pope Francis’ response last year to a question about a gay priest — “Who am I to judge?” 

Today’s statement also included a seeming jab at Western governments’ use of foreign aid as a tool for encouraging countries to drop repressive anti-gay laws, a practice that it called “international bodies mak[ing] financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.” The statement will now be discussed and fine-tuned by the gathering of bishops.

This is the section of the statement related to homosexuality:

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? 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 question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

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. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

Responses to the statement included the following:

A stunning change

“This is a stunning change in the way the Catholic church speaks of gay people. The Synod is clearly listening to the complex, real-life experiences of Catholics around the world, and seeking to address them with mercy, as Jesus did.”

— Jesuit author the Rev. James Martin

Seismic shift

HRC President Chad Griffin (Photo courtesy of GLAAD)
HRC President Chad Griffin (Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

“For the LGBT Catholics in the United States and around the world, this new document is a light in the darkness—a dramatic new tone from a Church hierarchy that has long denied the very existence of committed and loving gay and lesbian partnerships.”

— Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign in the HRC article “Seismic Shift in Rome: New Catholic Church Document Praises Committed Gay and Lesbian ‘Partnerships’ “

Watch out, gay bashers

“Considering that the Church in Uganda is the leader in promoting homophobia. I say to you: Watch out, gay bashers. God disapproves of your *****!”

— Clare Byarugaba, Ugandan LGBTI rights activist

Betrayal of Catholic families

The report “betrayed Catholic families worldwide” and “in effect gives tacit approval of adulterous relationships.” … The Vatican now sees “positive and constructive” aspects to mortal sins.

— The anti-gay Voice of the Family as described in the National Catholic Register article “Serious Reservations Expressed About Content of Synod Report.”

‘Kind of okay’

“Vatican To Cohabitators And Gays: Actually, You’re Kind of Okay”

— Mother Jones magazine

Asking new questions, no answers yet

“Some questions were asked here that have never been asked publicly by bishops: What good can we find in same-sex unions? In many ways for the first time in a long time the Catholic Church is saying it wants to ask really hard questions about how people truly live their lives. …

“But the fact that the question is being asked doesn’t mean the answer will be what progressive and liberal Catholics want it to be…. It would be a  mistake to see this document as in any way definitive or significantly revolutionary.”

— Patrick Hornbeck, chair of the theology department at Fordham University, a Catholic school, as quoted in the Washington Post.


Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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