Unjust discrimination against homosexuals must be avoided and children brought up in same-sex unions must be treated like anybody else, advises a new document from the Vatican. However, the church still does not sanction same-gender marriages or adoption by same-sex couples.
The document Instrumentum Laboris, is a working paper kicking off what will be two years of debate by Roman Catholic bishops around the world, responding to Pope Francis’ October 2013 call for an examination of “matters of family and the Christian faith,” writes Stoyan Zaimov for the Christian Post.
The document concedes that many Catholics worldwide reject its teachings on sex and contraception as intrusive and irrelevant. However, “core church doctrine on the nature of marriage, sexuality, abortion and divorce isn't expected to change as a result of the debate,” reports Nicole Winfield for the Associated Press. “But Pope Francis is well aware that the church has lost much of its relevance and credibility in today's secular world and he is seeking to redirect his ministers to offer families, and even gays in civil unions, a ‘new language’ that is welcoming and responds to their needs.”
The release of the working document marks a sharp change from past practice. The Vatican had sent out a 39-point questionnaire seeking input from ordinary Catholics around the world about their understanding of, and adherence to, the church's teaching on sexuality, homosexuality, contraception, marriage and divorce.
“Thousands of ordinary Catholics, clergy and academics responded, providing the Vatican with an unprecedented compilation of grass-root data to guide the discussion. Usually, such working papers are compiled by bishops alone,” notes Winfield. “The responses, which were summarized in the working document, were brutally honest.”
"A vast majority" of responses stressed that "the moral evaluation of the different methods of birth control is commonly perceived today as an intrusion in the intimate life of the couple and an encroachment on the autonomy of conscience," the document said. "Many responses recommend that for many Catholics the concept of 'responsible parenthood' encompasses the shared responsibility in conscience to choose the most appropriate method of birth control."
“Confronted with such a reality,” noted Winfield, “Vatican officials were asked at a press conference if the church might actually change its position to align itself with the practice of most of its faithful rather than hold onto teachings that so many Catholics reject.”
"We will not close our eyes to anything," responded Monsignor Bruno Forte. "These problems will be considered."
Publication date: June 29, 2014