It’s taken a long time, but in some ways it was inevitable. An assembly of Roman Catholic bishops called to the Vatican by Pope Francis has released a document saying that the Catholic Church should be more welcoming to gays, unmarried couples, and divorced people and their children.
Some Catholics are shocked and outraged, especially about the acceptance of gays. The statement has caused such a stir that it’s being compared to Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae in the mid-1960’s, which seemed to say that sex is for baby-making and that’s about it.
But many Catholics are not so surprised, and cheer the announcement; bishops are seeing more and more empty pews. And they're listening to what many of their parishioners are telling them: that they have sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren who are gay. And they love and accept them.
It’s a message that only the most obtuse can ignore.
But many conservative Catholics and Christians are not swayed. In an article in the Daily Beast
, the Voice of the Family’s Maria Madise is quoted as saying something that sounds a bit like it was taken from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book.
“The correct guidance for Catholics is that the parents of homosexuals should tell them their love for their son or daughter moves them to explain that homosexuality is not part of God’s plan,” Madise says.
That sentiment is rooted in the belief that gays and lesbians have a disorder, and that they are unnatural. But many friends and family members of LGBT people have long rejected that kind of thinking.
The bishops aren’t suggesting that the church change its policies. Catholics who fear that the church will soon bless marriages between same-sex couples are overreacting. That’s not going to happen.
But we might hear a different voice coming from our Catholic clergy; one that welcomes and embraces diversity. And that wouldn't be a bad thing.