No, they're not changing the whole "homosexuality is objectively disordered" thing. And they're certainly not dropping their opposition to marriage equality and same-sex adoption. But a document released yesterday by Vatican officials in preparation for Pope Francis's upcoming "extraordinary synod" on marriage, divorce, contraception, and other family issues may signal another shift in tone on LGBT issues from the Catholic Church.
As Reuters reports, the document calls for more respect and less judgment of same-sex couples, and for parishes to more fully include their children in the life and sacraments of the Church:
The document, known by its Latin term "Instrumentum Laboris", underscored the wide gap between official Church teachings on issues of sexual morality and their acceptance and understanding by the worldwide faithful...
The Church's traditional position on homosexuality has led to some cases of the children of gay people being excluded from Church activities.
While the new document did not signal any immediate change in the Church's condemnation of homosexual acts and its opposition to gay marriage and to the adoption of children by gay people, it used language that was remarkably less judgmental and more compassionate than past Vatican statements.
It said that while bishops remained opposed to governments "redefining" marriage by permitting same-sex unions, the Church had to find a balance between its teachings on the traditional family "and a respectful, non-judgmental attitude towards people living in such unions."
The document also notes that even Catholics who adhere to the Church's teachings about the sinfulness of gay sex and same-gender marriage (teachings that a majority of Catholics in many Western countries, including the United States, reject) are struggling to find a way forward that's more welcoming of same-sex couples and their children:
[A] number of Catholics who responded to the questionnaire felt "a certain unease at the challenge of accepting these people with a merciful spirit and, at the same time, holding to the moral teaching of the Church ..."
"However, when people living in such unions request a child's baptism, almost all the responses emphasize that the child must be received with the same care, tenderness and concern which is given to other children," it said.
While Vatican officials have stressed that Church teachings against homosexual activity would not change under pressure of public opinion, the document said "many responses" called for "theological study in dialogue with the human sciences to develop a multi-faceted look at the phenomenon of homosexuality".
I don't know about you, but I'm curious how the Catholic Church thinks it's going to be able to thread that needle -- "your parents are disordered sinners, but we love you!" But perhaps I'm just being unreasonable/expecting too much?