Catholic bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays, 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.
Later, Pope Francis said on Sunday the Church should not be afraid of change and new challenges. Francis, who has said he wants a more merciful and less rigid Church, made his comments in a sermon to some 70,000 people in St Peter’s Square for the ceremonial closing of the synod.