ROME (AP) — A Vatican official has apologized to a leading Catholic LGBTQ advocacy group for having yanked a reference to it from the Vatican website, saying he realized the move caused pain and that the Catholic Church does indeed want to include gays and hear from them.
The Vatican’s General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, which is organizing a two-year consultation of rank-and-file Catholics ahead of a 2023 meeting of bishops at the Vatican, restored the reference to New Ways Ministries on the website over the weekend.
The synod’s communications director, Thierry Bonaventura, said he wanted to apologize “to all LGBT and to the members of New Ways Ministries for the pain caused” and urged them to contribute their reflections on the consultation process.
“In walking together, sometimes one may fall, the important thing is to get back up with the help of the brothers and sisters,” he wrote in the Synod’s newsletter. Bonaventura confirmed the statement to The Associated Press on Monday.
The Synod had originally included a reference to New Ways Ministries, a U.S.-based organization that advocates for greater acceptance of gays in the Catholic Church, in its “Resources” page directing people to sources of information about the Synod consultation process. Other U.S. resources alongside it were the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the archdioceses of Boston and Newark.
But the New Ways Ministries reference was taken down earlier this month without explanation. Suspicion fell on the U.S. bishops conference, which is headed by conservatives who have kept New Ways Ministries at arms’ length. Catholic doctrine holds that gays must be treated with dignity and respect but that homosexual activity is “intrinsically disordered.”
The flip-flop on the reference to New Ways Ministries on the Synod website is indicative of recent mixed messages the Holy See and Pope Francis himself have sent about the Vatican’s position on gays and their place in the church.
Francis made international headlines in 2013 when he quipped “Who am I to judge?” about a purportedly gay priest. He followed up over the years with unprecedented gestures of papal outreach to the gay and transsexual communities, and, while archbishop of Buenos Aires, supported extending legal protections — but not marriage — to gay couples in stable relationships.
But he has also upheld official church teaching and consented earlier this year to the publication of a document from the Vatican’s doctrine office asserting that the Catholic Church cannot and will not bless same-sex unions since God “cannot bless sin.”