Catholic bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays Saturday, showing deep divisions at the end of a two-week meeting sought by Pope Francis to chart a more merciful approach to ministering to Catholic families.
The bishops failed to approve even a watered-down section on ministering to homosexuals that stripped away the welcoming tone of acceptance contained in a draft document earlier in the week.
Rather than considering gays as individuals who had gifts to offer the church, the revised paragraph referred to homosexuality as one of the problems Catholic families have to confront. It said “people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy,” but repeated church teaching that marriage is only between man and woman. The paragraph failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
Two other paragraphs concerning the other hot-button issue at the synod of bishops – whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion – also failed to pass.
The outcome showed a deeply divided church on some of the most pressing issues facing Catholic families.
It appeared that the 118-62 vote on the gay section might have been a protest vote by progressive bishops who refused to back the watered-down wording. The original draft had said gays had gifts to offer the church and that their partnerships, while morally problematic, provided gay couples with “precious” support.
In an unexpected gesture after the voting, Francis approached a group of journalists waiting outside the synod hall to thank them for their work covering the synod.
“Thanks to you and your colleagues for the work you have done,” he said. “Grazie tante.” Conservative bishops had harshly criticized journalists for reporting on the dramatic shift in tone in the draft, even though the media reports merely reflected the document’s content.
Francis’ gesture, and his words inside the synod hall chastising bishops who were overly wed to doctrine and were guided by “hostile rigidity,” as well as those bishops who showed a “destructive goody-goodiness,” indicated that he was well aware of the divisions the debate had sparked. His speech received a four-minute standing ovation, participants said.