In a highly unanticipated move, the Vatican released a document on Monday asking the Church to consider accepting gays, divorce, and other types of less traditional families. The document, which states that homosexuals have “gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community”, also suggests that the Church should contemplate welcoming unwed couples and children with unmarried parents.
Pope Francis led a gathering of 200 Roman Catholic bishops at the Vatican this month. The group released the preliminary document challenging the Church to create a “fraternal space” for divorce and homosexuals within Catholicism. Last year, Pope Francis publicly questioned, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” The new stance expressed by the Vatican suggests that accepting divorce or gay individuals doesn’t diminish the definitions of family and matrimony as outlined in the doctrine.
It’s important to note that the document did not actually encourage any major reforms in the Church’s current condemnation of divorce, gay marriage, or homosexual acts in general. It did, however, employ more compassionate language than previous statements released by the Vatican on similar issues. Bishops were asked to no longer refer to unmarried couples and gay couples as “living in sin.”
The unexpected change in the Vatican’s tone discussing divorce and gay relationships is likely to make ripples throughout the Catholic community and will be contemplated in parishes all over the globe. The assembly of bishops will focus on the issues mentioned in the document during the upcoming final week of the synod, which Pope Francis called to discuss issues related to family.
Although Vatican divorce laws will likely remain non-existent for the foreseeable future, next year’s synod should result in a more definitive response to homosexuals, divorcees, and individuals in “irregular situations” once the Church has had enough time for reflection on the issues.