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Catholic Bishops Discuss Teachings on Gays, Divorce

Pope Francis hoists the Gospel book as he celebrates a mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Oct. 5, 2014, to open the extraordinary Synod on the family.

Pope Francis hoists the Gospel book as he celebrates a mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Oct. 5, 2014, to open the extraordinary Synod on the family.

The Roman Catholic Church has long been critical of love relationships between two people of the same sex. The church has also sharply criticized sexual activity outside of marriage. And it rejects divorce. That is when one or both partners in a marriage choose to end it.

But some Catholic bishops are suggesting that the church might ease its attitude, or position, toward people who do not obey these teachings. The church officials have been attending a two-week synod, or meeting, at the Vatican in Rome. They offered their opinions this week in a preliminary report on family issues. A final report is expected on Saturday. The document will be studied and discussed worldwide over the next year.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church -- Pope Francis -- appointed the bishops who wrote the report. Recent comments by the Pope have shown that he would like the church to reach out to those it has traditionally rejected.

The preliminary report says the church should recognize that there are “positive aspects” about marriages lacking the church’s approval. It also says there may be good things about two people living together without getting married. In the past, the religious group has said these activities were wrong, and those involved were living in sin.

One Vatican expert called the apparent change in attitude of some top Church officials “a pastoral earthquake.” Some observers believe the change will lead to a fierce argument between liberal and conservative Catholics, and others.

The final report from the synod would not mean a change in official Catholic policies. But it does show a very different attitude toward Catholics who do not follow Catholic teachings. They include unmarried men and women who live together, gay people, and couples who divorce and marry again.

Cardinal Peter Erdo of Hungary is one of the bishops who wrote the report. He serves as general reporter of the meeting. He says the church needs to reach out to people who love others of the same sex. He said it should provide them with “a welcoming home.”

The report did not take a strong position on the issue of whether people who end their marriages can marry again. John Allen, Jr. is an expert on the Catholic Church. He has written many books on the church and its teachings. In the publication Crux, Mr. Allen suggested that there is growing agreement that annulments need to be faster and simpler. An annulment declares that a union was never really a marriage. That holds true even if the wedding ceremony was performed in the Catholic Church. Should a Catholic gain annulment, he or she can marry again in the church.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

*This story was reported by VOA correspondent Ken Bredemeier in Washington. Jeri Watson wrote it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in this Story

attitudes - n. ways you think or feel about something or someone; feelings or thoughts that affect a person’s behavior

opinions - n. beliefs, judgments, ways of thinking about something; what someone thinks about particular things

views - n. opinions or ways of thinking about someone or something

sin - n. an offense against religious or moral law

synod - n. an assembly of the clergy and others; sometimes the laity of a diocese or other division of a particular church

gay - adj. homosexual (person who cares for others of the same sex)

rite - n. a religious or solemn ceremony or act

communion - n. a Christian custom at which bread and wine (or another drink) are shared

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