Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Catholic bishops meeting about issues concerning the family have issued a statement that appears to offer growing acceptance of gays and lesbians.

On Monday, the Church’s Synod on the Family released a report stating that “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community.”

The document, which is being acknowledged for its “change in tone” towards homosexuality, is a summary of discussions at the synod’s meeting, which began earlier this month and runs until Sunday.

At its core, the report acknowledges that Catholic dogma should be tempered “with mercy” and that the Church needs to accept to some degree people whose realities differ from its doctrine.

“A new dimension of today’s family pastoral consists of accepting the reality of civil marriage and also cohabitation, taking into account the due differences,” states the document.

And while the Bishops re-affirmed that “unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman,” they indicated that gay and lesbian Catholics also need acceptance in the Church.

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” they said, asking, “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?”

Equally Blessed, an American coalition of LGBT Catholic organisations, welcomed the synod’s openness to increased acceptance.

“We are thrilled that the synod is recognising what Catholics in the pews have long known: that LGBT individuals are a sacred part of our parish communities and bring immeasurable gifts to the church,” said the group.

It noted, however, that: “While there is much to applaud in the synod’s recently released midterm report, it is also a reminder that we still have a long way to go before LGBT people will reach full equality in our church.

“In order to truly welcome and celebrate LGBT Catholics, the church must also recognise the sanctity of LGBT couples and families. We pray that this document will bring us one step closer to the day when LGBT families will be unconditionally welcomed, supported and celebrated by our parish communities,” said Equally Blessed.

Since the start of his papacy last year, Pope Francis has heralded a more welcoming tone towards gays and lesbians by the Catholic Church.

Despite this, the Church continues to vehemently oppose gay marriage and it officially holds the position that homosexual acts are sinful. There is also little consistency in its approach. Gay and lesbian employees continue to be fired from Catholic schools in the US because of their sexual orientation or marital status, while Catholic bishops in some African countries have openly championed harsh and inhuman anti-gay laws.

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