Massive Vatican shift on gay sex: Summit on ‘family life’ says unmarried couples living together can be ‘positive’, gays and divorcees must be welcomed and contraception ‘respected’
- Catholic Church adopts rare progressive tone during talks of family issues
- Two-week summit reached midway point today with the release of a document summarizing the extent of the closed-door debate so far
- Meeting is the first time Catholic Church has held a family synod’ since 1980
- The summit has been described as a ‘step in the right direction’ by activists
Catholic bishops meeting to discuss ‘family issues’ at a two week summit have said unmarried couples living together can be ‘positive’, and gay relationships and divorces must be welcomed. Displaying remarkably liberal attitudes for a Church famed for its conservatism, bishops meeting in the Vatican today also said that a couples’ decision on the use of contraception should be respected. The summit, which reached its midway point today, has been described as a ‘step in the right direction’ by activists and boasts all the hallmarks of the notably progressive attitudes the Catholic Church has adopted since the ascension of Pope Francis last year.
The two-week meeting of bishops on family issues arrived at its half-way point today with a document summarizing the closed-door debate so far. No decisions were announced, but the tone was one of acceptance rather than condemnation, aiming to guide Catholics toward the ideal of marriage. Bishops called for ‘courageous’ new ways to help families, especially those ‘damaged’ by divorce. Unlike the last family synod in 1980, which despaired over the rise in annulments in the U.S., bishops are now calling for streamlined annulment procedures globally. The synod is also the first time a Vatican meeting has discussed gay and lesbian issues within the Church – a move described as ‘a crack in the ice that we have been waiting for, for a very long time’ by Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the Catholic gay rights group New Ways Ministry.
Video: Pope Francis Who am I to judge gay people July 2013
The bishops said homosexuals had ‘gifts and qualities’ to offer and asked rhetorically if the church was ready to provide them a place ‘accepting and valuing their sexual orientation without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony.‘ For a 2,000-year-old institution that believes gay sex is ‘intrinsically disordered,’ even posing the question is significant. The bishops, however, repeated that gay marriage was off the table. The bishops said they must grasp the ‘positive reality of civil weddings’ and even cohabitation, with the aim of helping the couple commit eventually to a church wedding. The decision to include gay and lesbian issues at a meeting discussing Catholic family values bears all the hallmarks of Pope Francis’ progressive attitude. Pope Francis famously said ‘Who am I to judge?’ when asked in 2013 about rumors that a top priestly adviser had a gay lover.
The bishops also called for a re-reading of the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae that outlined the church’s opposition to artificial birth control. The bishops said couples should be unconditionally open to having children, but that the message of Humanae Vitae ‘underlines the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control.’ There has been much talk inside the synod about applying the theological concept of the ‘law of gradualness’ in difficult family situations. The concept encourages the faithful to take one step at a time in the search for holiness. Applying the concept to matters of birth control would be an acknowledgement that most Catholics already use artificial contraception in violation of church teaching.