Vatican backtracks on gay tolerance comments after angry reaction from bishops

Vatican claims report is a ‘working document’ - not Church doctrine

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The Independent Online

The Vatican appears to have backtracked on their unprecedented positive comments on homosexuality after a furious reaction from conservative Catholics.

On Monday, Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo read out an interim report at the Synod’s General Congregation that declared homosexuals had “gifts and qualities to offer” and even raised the prospect of the Catholic Church recognising the positive aspects of same-sex relationships.

The church, it added, must welcome divorced people and recognise the "positive" aspects of civil marriages and even Catholics who live together without being married.

The document was described as an “earthquake” in the Church’s attitude towards gays and heralded as a “turning point” in policy by Vatican experts.

But on Tuesday, conservative bishops distanced themselves from the document's remarkable opening toward gays and divorced Catholics, calling it an "unacceptable" deviation from church teaching that does not reflect their views.

The leaders of the bishops' meeting that produced it have now said it was simply a “working document” and was not intended to be an official statement of church teaching on family life.

Instead, they said it was a reflection of bishops' views that will be debated and amended before a final version is released on Saturday.

The Holy See press office said bishops had "appreciated" the document but some offered additional reflections "to bring together various points of view."

'The bishops called for "prudence" over same-sex relationships so that “the impression of a positive evaluation of such a tendency on the part of the church is not created”.

"The same care was advised with regard to cohabitation," the Vatican said. Bishops also suggested the final document highlight faithful Catholic families to avoid "a near-exclusive focus on imperfect family situations”.

"The report, obviously composed under pressure, has easily given rise to some misinterpretation," British Cardinal Vincent Nichols said Tuesday.

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"It is not a doctrinal or decisive document. It is, as stated in its conclusion, 'intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer on reflection."'

Several conservatives who participated in the synod also immediately distanced themselves from the report. The head of the Polish bishops' conference, Cardinal Stanislaw Gadecki, called it "unacceptable" and a deviation from church teaching.

American Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican's Supreme Court, told Catholic World Report that the document contained positions "which many synod Fathers do not accept and, I would say, as faithful shepherds of the flock cannot accept."

Additional reporting by agencies

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