Durban’s homophobic Cardinal Wilfred Napier

African bishops have been blamed for watering down the final version of what could have been a ground-breaking gay-affirming Catholic document.

Last week, a preliminary report from a two-week long meeting on the family by senior Catholic leaders made headlines for stating that gay people have “gifts and qualities” to offer Christianity, and calling for more flexibility on gay relationships and unions by the Church.

The report was immediately attacked by conservative Catholic bishops, including the Archbishop of Durban, Cardinal Wilfred Napier.

On Saturday, the meeting (or synod) released a final version of its report, which saw the gay-affirming language removed, only retaining the Church’s long-standing definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Even a statement that “men and women with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy” failed to receive a two-thirds majority vote from the Bishops and was not adopted.

Speaking on ABC News’ This Week, the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, said bishops from Africa especially were among those behind the changes.

He stated that African clergy come from “cultures and societies” that have “a very strong definition of marriage, as man and woman with children, and are kind of afraid of attempts to water that down.”

He explained that “one of the fears that they would have would be what we call same-sex marriage” and that they are concerned “about a document giving any indication that the Church might be open to any change at all in the definition of marriage”

Equally Blessed, an American coalition of LGBT Catholic organisations, said that new document “confirms that there are deep divides in the Catholic hierarchy around issues of human sexuality.”

It described the changes made to the interim report as an “unfortunate” attempt to shut out “the thousands of faithful LGBT Catholics and their families who have been left out in the cold by a church that repeatedly refuses to acknowledge the sanctity of their lives and their loves.”

Equally Blessed insisted, however, that “the conversation that began at the Synod on the Family isn’t over – in fact it’s just beginning.”

The synod will reconvene in a year’s time. There is hope that by then newer Bishops appointed by the more liberal Pope Francis will be more open to welcoming gay and lesbian Catholics.

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