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Vatican uses ‘LGBT’ for first time in report on why youth are fleeing the church

Pope Francis greets the pilgrims during his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on September 10, 2014.
Pope Francis greets the pilgrims during his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on September 10, 2014. Photo: Shutterstock

In a first, the Vatican has used the term “LGBT” in an official document.

The paper, detailing a bishops’ meeting on how the church isn’t meeting the needs of young people, discussed how “some LGBT youth … wish to ‘benefit from greater closeness’ and experience greater care from the Church” but don’t feel welcome or understood.

The National Catholic Reporter noted this was the first time the Vatican has used the acronym. Previously, the Catholic Church has only used “homosexual” or “persons with homosexual tendencies” to describe gay and lesbian people.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who serves as the Secretary General in the Vatican’s synod office, spoke at a press conference on the use of the term, saying they used it knowing it was commonplace amongst the young.

Said Cardinal Baldisseri, “We are open. We don’t want to be closed in on ourselves.”

While the use of “LGBT” by the Vatican is an important benchmark in a shift towards acceptance by the Catholic Church, it does little to change overall views of LGBTQ people within the church.

The Church under Pope Francis has been marked by a more progressive stance than under past popes, but still has a very long way to go in terms of acceptance of LGBTQ people.

Just one month after the pope was hailed by many for telling a gay man than God had made him gay, and that God loves the man, the pope seemingly backtracked, saying that gay couples cannot be families.

“It is painful to say this today: People speak of varied families, of various kinds of family,” but “the family [as] man and woman in the image of God is the only one,” said Pope Francis while speaking to the Forum delle Famiglie.

He has also come under fire over his views of transgender people, having criticized technologies geared to making gender transitions easier, claiming such will “risk dismantling the source of energy that fuels the alliance between men and women and renders them fertile.”

The use of “LGBT” by the Vatican heralds an upcoming assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October that will be focused on youth and faith.

“The Synod’s primary aim is to make the whole Church aware of her important and not at all optional task of accompanying every young person, without exclusion, towards the joy of love,” said Cardinal Baldisseri.

In a blog post from Francis DeBernardo, the Executive Director New Ways Ministry, an organization dedicated to building bridges between the Catholic church and LGBTQ people, he signaled the importance of the change, while still cautioning that there is a long way to go.

“While these three developments are welcome changes in the church’s style of discourse, it must be noted that there is nothing in the new document which indicates that the Vatican is, as yet, willing to entertain changes in church policy on LGBT issues,” said DeBernardo.

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