Facing outrage from traditional Catholics, top clergy at a Vatican meeting altered a document meant to guide future outreach to gays and lesbians, changing the goal of "welcoming homosexual persons" to "providing for homosexual persons."
Pope Francis called the two-week meeting of 190 top Catholic clergy members to deal frankly with the fact many Catholics disregard core church teachings around sex and marriage, and to consider how Catholic values might be reframed or reconsidered. The topic was fraught from the beginning, with top clergy disagreeing about how remarks might be interpreted.
At a news conference yesterday, Vatican officials issued an updated English version of a document made public Monday. The section of the report on gays and lesbians was retitled; other words were changed.
Monday's version was titled "Welcoming homosexual persons." It asked the church to provide gays a "fraternal space" and said their unions constitute a "precious support" for the partners. The new English version is titled "Providing for homosexual persons" and speaks only of "fellowship" and "valuable support."
The meeting is releasing information each day in several languages, and only the English version was changed yesterday. The new wording was substituted on the Vatican website.
The wording put out Monday has been controversial, with more traditional clergy in particular saying it needed to be overhauled because it was too vague and too liberal-sounding.
On Wednesday, New York City Archbishop Timothy Dolan said, "Boy, this document . . . does it ever need major revisions." On Tuesday, at the daily news conference, clergy emphasized that being more welcoming to nontraditional families doesn't mean changing teachings that see such families as un-ideal.
The Rev. Thomas Reese, a priest-journalist covering the synod, said the clergy are "in a panic. They are afraid this welcoming language will confuse people. They'll think the church is going to change its teaching." None of the 190 clergy are pushing for that, he said.