Surprising action taken even before the final report is completed
In an unexpected move, the Vatican has issued a revised English translation of the three paragraphs in the interim report addressing homosexual persons.
Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, presented the document as an improved translation, explaining that someone had pointed out errors in the original English translation to the General Secretariat and, accordingly, the Secretariat made the revisions and then the press office published the revised interim report in English.
Reporters were quick to point out that the original English translation of these passages was actually more faithful to the official Italian version than is the revised text, and they asked if there were other reasons for the changes. Father Lombardi did not answer that point directly, but added that there may even be a third translation of the interim report.
He cautioned that people should not be concerned because it is only an interim report. The final report to be issued Saturday is the only one that matters, he stated, adding that "Some mistakes are made." And he underscored the fact that the official version is the Italian one.
Nevertheles, the changes are widely seen as an effort to address the concerns of English-speaking Synod Fathers who have voiced misgivings about the ambiguities present in the original.
Some noteworthy changes are as follows:
The section title has been changed to "Providing for Homosexual Persons" in place of the original, "Welcoming Homosexual Persons."
Paragraph 50 of the original interim report read —
The new version reads:
But the text made no substantive change to another sentence in that paragraph that also raised concerns:
The original read:
Are our communities capable of providing that [i.e., providing a fraternal space and a welcoming home], accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?
It now reads:
Two reporters addressed the clear distinction between "welcoming" homosexuals and "providing for" them, pointing out that "Welcome" implies accepting them as they are and "providing for" suggests a need for pastoral care that would help them overcome sin. No further comment came from the press office.
One change to paragraph 51 is particularly significant.
The original read: "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." (emphasis added) The words in bold were changed to "on the same level as marriage between man and woman."
Matrimony refers, of course, to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, while marriage is a broader term encompassing civil marriage as well as marriages recognized by other faiths. The change underlines the Church’s opposition to civil laws granting equal status to same sex unions.
The changes to paragraph 52 are largely cosmetic except for the very significant replacement of "partners" with "persons," reflecting the Church’s view that persons in homosexual unions should not be considered juridical partners.
The full text of the revised and original paragraphs from the interim report are reproduced below.
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.
The original translation reads:
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.
Susan E. Wills
is spirituality editor of Aleteia’s English-language edition.