The Vatican circulated a new English translation on Thursday of a report released earlier this week at the midpoint of a worldwide summit of bishops on family issues, removing landmark language on "welcoming homosexual persons," and replacing it with the less inclusive phrase "providing for homosexual persons."
This report, known as the "Relatio post disceptationem" of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, produced a firestorm of protest from conservative bishops, some of whom accused the leadership of the conference of misrepresenting the proceedings to advance its agenda. The section on homosexuality was especially explosive, because it was the first Vatican document that reflected Pope Francis' nonjudgmental rhetoric around homosexuality and his desire to move away from the culture wars prioritized by his predecessors, Popes Benedict and John Paul II.
American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who chairs the Vatican's highest court of canon law, has been one of the most outspoken critics of the report, saying, "The document lacks a solid foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium," and accused the bishops leading the meeting of advancing "positions which many Synod Fathers do not accept."
In the face of this criticism, Vatican leaders stressed that this was a working document and not an official declaration of the synod. The revised English translation appears to be the latest attempt to walk it back, but suggests organizers are making a special effort to mollify English-speaking conservatives because the version of the report in Italian — which is the official language for Vatican business — is unchanged.
The section on "Welcoming homosexual persons" has been retitled "Providing for homosexual persons" in the English version.
But the Italian version is unchanged.
There are other changes in the language of three paragraphs on homosexuality, but this is the only one that appears to have a substantial change in meaning. It attracted notice, in part, because "welcoming" is a more accurate translation of the Italian accogliere.
Here is the original passage on "Welcoming Homosexual Persons":
50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?
51. The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.
52. Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.
This is the revised text on "Providing for Homosexual Persons":
50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing [...] them [...] a place of fellowship in our communities? Oftentimes, they want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?
51. The question of homosexuality requires serious reflection on how to devise realistic approaches to affective growth, human development and maturation in the Gospel, while integrating the sexual aspect, all of which constitute an important educative challenge. Moreover, the Church affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same level as marriage between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that the pastor's outlook be pressured or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations based on gender ideology.
52. Without denying the moral problems associated with homosexual unions, there are instances where mutual assistance to the point of sacrifice is a valuable support in the life of these persons. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to [...] children who live with same-sex couples and stresses that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.
Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi told reporters not to ascribe any meaning to the updates, and insisted the new translation was issued to correct the original, which was done in a hurry.
Update: The Relatio was also published in Spanish and French. Both versions use language meaning "welcoming homosexual persons," and neither appear to have been changed.
J. Lester Feder is a world correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. His secure PGP fingerprint is 2353 DB68 8AA6 92BD 67B8 94DF 37D8 0A6F D70B 7211
Contact J. Lester Feder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 6055 A264 DADD AADC 347E 5986 547C C11C DD7D 176A.
Contact Ellie Hall at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.