The 256-page Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) adopted more tolerant language towards same-sex relationships, but did not include any significant changes to the church’s position on these unions.
“While not expecting a blessing on marriage for lesbian and gay couples, many were anticipating that Pope Francis would offer an affirming message to LGBT people, and not the same ill-informed comments,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBT Catholics, in a statement.
Mary Beth Maxwell, of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said her group was disappointed by the document.
“This was the culmination of two years of often contentious conversations by church leaders, deeply divided on their approach to LGBT people and our families,” said Maxwell, the HRC Foundation’s senior vice-president for programs, research and training. “In many ways, it’s not surprising that while he didn’t make more bold commitments to full inclusion that many people long for, it does seek to create a culture that’s more loving than judging.”
Amoris Laetitia is a product of three years of international consultations about family. The tone of the document suggests that followers should take a less rigid approach in interpreting Catholic teachings, but is steadfast in the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
On same-sex relationships, Francis said: “Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.”
He went on to say: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
Maxwell said the document will be interpreted much differently by church leaders. “The good news is there is plenty here for those searching for ways to support LGBT people and while it does not explicitly protect or affirm us and our families, nothing in this requires actions that push us out of our churches and even our jobs,” Maxwell said.
Top-ranking US Catholics urged followers to consider the document instead of making hasty decisions about what it means.
The pope’s top US adviser, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, said the document is complex and deserves careful study. “Rather than try to draw immediate conclusions from the text, we are urged to reflect upon it and to ponder, patiently and carefully, what the teachings will mean for the Church and for her ministry to families,” O’Malley said in a statement.
“It is packed with practical insight and wisdom and invites us to look anew at the beauty and joy of what it means to be part of a family,” Martin said. “It has particular focus on the need to walk with those of us who feel excluded and to let everyone know that they are loved by God and that that love is a tender love, but also a love that challenges us all to change.”
This article was written by Amanda Holpuch in New York, for theguardian.com on Friday 8th April 2016 19.29 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010