So, you’re saying there’s a chance…
The Vatican continues to send positive messages to the LGBT community in subtle but substantial ways while still trying to tote the “party line” on traditional doctrinal thinking when it comes to same-sex couples. The Vatican is in a state of change right now and I’m not sure where they will end up, but all signs point toward a doctrinal shift in the acceptance of LGBT people and same-sex relationships.
If you’re a practicing Catholic, and you’re an LGBT person also, you get why this is a big deal. It’s not always easy to support and practice a religion that doesn’t necessarily support who you are. If you’re not Catholic though and you don’t understand how this affects you and our world more broadly, I’ll explain why below.
Since becoming Pope in 2013, the Pope Francis led Vatican has opened its thinking in a lot of ways that the Catholic Church never had done before. It has shed much of its image as an institution that is above the law (i.e. child sex abuse scandals), above every day people and oblivious to the realities that are a part of our world today. Part of today’s reality is that LGBT are out in larger numbers not just in the U.S. but across the globe more so than ever in its history.
This is a fact.
However, this is not to downplay or forget that many prejudicial laws still do exist. Discrimination and violence against LGBT people happen every single day in many countries including our own and there are many countries that are not open at all yet and may not be for a very long time. Part of the motivation behind the prejudice, is derived from religious and/or cultural driven attitudes that are ingrained from one’s childhood and passed from one generation to the next. It’s called institutionalized discrimination. The LGBT community like many other minorities faces institutionalized discrimination that can and does affect their everyday lives. It may be insignificant to some, it may be life threatening to others, but the discrimination that is ingrained within our broader global society is due in part to human interpretations to religious doctrine.
According to Pew Research study published in 2013, Catholics make up 1.1 billion of the world’s population. That’s roughly 15 percent of the entire world. In the U.S. alone, they make up over 25 percent of our population as a country. The Vatican, while not wielding the power it once did centuries ago, still does command a great amount of authority on how the church is viewed and how the religion is practiced and taught to children. So, when the Vatican starts to alter its interpretations on doctrine associated with LGBT people, it is a big deal considering how slow the Vatican typically moves on social issues and how many people are paying attention to what they have to say.
In a Vatican document that was released on Monday, the Vatican acknowledges that homosexuals have “gifts and qualities to offer” and has asked itself if Catholicism could accept gays and recognize positive aspects of same-sex couples.
The source of the document was initiated from a week-long meeting of 200 bishops discussing family issues. The document also suggested that it should challenge itself to find “a fraternal space” for homosexuals without compromising Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony.
While nothing within the document directly spelled out any impending changes made by the Vatican, it did project out a much less judgmental and much more open minded view towards the LGBT community. This open mindedness shown by the Vatican has been noticeable ever since Pope Francis took over last year. Pope Francis has been making ever so slightly moves closer towards acceptance.
“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home,” noted within the document.
The document laid out further questions…
“Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”
A number of participants at the meeting suggested that they should tone down their condemnatory language towards gay people and same sex couples and suggested that they should try to show more compassion and reflect on what all this means for the church going forward.
Who knows where the church will end up on these issues, but it’s a big step in a long process yet to come in opening up hearts and minds across the world in its acceptance and understanding of LGBT people. When hearts and mind open, change can enter the equation…and when we’re talking about 1.1 billion followers of the Catholic faith that could mean a lot of change.