Bishops scrap welcome to gays in sign of split


Associated Press

VATICAN CITY

Catholic bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays Saturday, showing deep divisions at the end of a two-week meeting sought by Pope Francis to chart a more merciful approach to ministering to Catholic families.

The bishops approved a final report covering a host of issues related to Catholic family life, acknowledging there were “positive elements” in civil heterosexual unions outside the church and even in cases when men and women were living together outside marriage.

They also said the church must respect Catholics in their moral evaluation of “methods used to regulate births,” a seemingly significant deviation from church teaching barring any form of artificial contraception.

But the bishops failed to reach consensus on a watered-down section on ministering to homosexuals. The new section had stripped away the welcoming tone of acceptance contained in a draft document earlier in the week.

Rather than considering gays as individuals who had gifts to offer the church, the revised paragraph referred to homosexuality as one of the problems Catholic families face. It said “people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity,” but repeated church teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

The revised paragraph failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass.

Two other paragraphs concerning the other hot-button issue at the synod of bishops — whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion — also failed to pass.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the failure of the paragraphs to pass meant that they have to be discussed further to arrive at a consensus at a meeting of bishops next October.

It could be that the 118-62 vote on the gay paragraph was a protest vote of sorts by progressive bishops who refused to back the watered-down wording and wanted to keep the issue alive.

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