Catholic Bishops at Synod on Family Rejects Gay-Friendly Policy Change; Undecided on Cohabitating and Remarried Members

Pope Francis greets a cardinal as he leaves at the end of a mass to mark the opening of the synod on the family in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, Rome, Italy, October 5, 2014.
Pope Francis greets a cardinal as he leaves at the end of a mass to mark the opening of the synod on the family in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, Rome, Italy, October 5, 2014. | (Photo: Reuters/Tony Gentile)

A two-week summit of Catholic bishops ended Saturday without a two-thirds consensus on even a revised and watered-down section on acceptance of gays and lesbians. Nor could the bishops decide whether divorced and remarried Catholics should receive Holy Communion.

An interim report issued by the major Synod on the family at the Vatican Monday had praised the "gifts" homosexuals can bring to the church, and noted the "precious support" same-sex partners mutually provide. But the section had been watered down for voting and yet it didn't receive a two-thirds approval from the nearly 200 bishops, according to CNN.

The revised section said that homosexuality is one of the problems Catholic families have to confront. "People with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy," it added, but also said that the church's teaching remains that marriage is between one man and one woman, according to The Associated Press.

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There is "no foundation" for equating gay unions with "God's design of matrimony and the family," it said.

Gay rights groups criticized the outcome of the vote.

"Unfortunately, today, doctrine won out over pastoral need. It is disappointing that those who recognized the need for a more inclusive Church were defeated," Boston-based DignityUSA said in a statement.

On cohabitating and remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion, the final report says the bishops will "study" the issue.

After the interim report, Catholics and Evangelicals alike had noted that the talks signified a notable change in tone from the Church regarding such issues, but some questioned the liberal media's interpretation that Catholics are paving the way to accept gay marriage.

"The interim report on the Synod represents a very early stage of the sausage-making process and, unsurprisingly, it isn't pretty," Father Robert Barron, founder of Word On Fire Catholic Ministries, wrote in a recent post.

"Two more weeks of discussion will follow; then a full year during which the findings of the Synod will be further refined, argued about, and clarified; then the Ordinary Synod on the Family will take place, and many more arguments and counter-arguments will be made; finally, some months, perhaps even a year or so, after that, the Pope will write a post-Synodal exhortation summing up the entire process and offering a definitive take on the matter," Barron added. "At that point, I would suggest, something resembling edible sausage will be available for our consumption; until then, we should all be patient and refrain from bloviating."

The two-week meeting of bishops from around the world, sought by Pope Francis, was aimed at tackling a number of controversial issues facing the Catholic Church, including how to respond to changing families and how to better communicate Catholic doctrine.

"Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn't been these ... animated discussions ... or if everyone had been in agreement or silent in a false and acquiescent peace," Francis was quoted as telling the synod hall after the vote.

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