Catholic Church acknowledges gay people have 'gifts and qualities to offer' at synod

The statement has been hailed as a 'breakthrough' by rights groups

The Catholic church could be moving to accept gay members and even acknowledge positive aspects of same-sex partnerships following a bishops’ meeting.

A document released by the Vatican on Monday said “homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community” and asked how that could be balanced with doctrine.

Roman Catholic gay rights groups around the world hailed the paper as a breakthrough, but conservatives called it a betrayal of traditional family values.

Known as the “relatio post disceptationem”, the document detailed discussions by 200 senior bishops on the Church’s treatment of LGBT people.

It said: “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?”

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Many Catholic groups strongly opposed the introduction of same-sex marriages

The document said the question warranted “serious reflection” on how to educate people on the Roman Catholic position on sex and confirmed that the Church cannot consider gay marriage “on the same footing” as heterosexual partnerships.

“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,” it added.

“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.”

It did not signal a change in the Church’s condemnation of gay sex or marriage but used more balanced language than seen under Pope Francis’ predecessors.

While Pope Benedict was serving as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal department, he called gay people “intrinsically disordered” and there has since been an apparent effort by the Church to tone down condemnatory language.

Pope Francis has previously said the Church must be more compassionate towards the LGBT community, saying last year: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Quest, a London-based Catholic gay rights group, called parts of the relatio “a breakthrough in that they acknowledge that such unions have an intrinsic goodness and constitute a valuable contribution to wider society and the common good.”

But John Smeaton, co-founder of the socially conservative Catholic group Voice of the Family, called it “one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history”.

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Pope Francis is seen as more compassionate towards LGBT people than his predecessors

“Those who are controlling the synod have betrayed Catholic parents worldwide,” he added.

The document also discussed non-religious marriages and cohabitation between straight couples, saying the Church must recognise the modern reality while “clearly presenting the ideal” of Catholic marriage.

It will be the basis for discussion for the second and final week of the bishops' assembly, known as a synod, which has been focusing on the family and controversial issues including abortion, contraception and divorce.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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