The Catholic Church should be less judgmental of homosexuals and, while still opposing same-sex marriage, should welcome gay couples' children into the faith with equal dignity, a Vatican document shows.
The document presented in Rome Thursday does not propose any change to the church's condemnation of homosexual acts and its opposition to gay marriage and to the adoption of children by gay people.
However the language used is softer and had more empathy and compassion than previous Vatican reports and interpretations of past teachings that have in some cases led to some children of gay parents being excluded from church activities.
The church had in the past said homosexuality is "intrinsically disordered" and also described it as "an intrinsic moral evil."
It teaches that homosexual acts are sinful but says that homosexual tendencies are not.
The document on the family mentions "a certain unease" in accepting homosexuals by some of the Catholics who responded to a questionnaire put out by bishops contributing to the report.
They said this was due to the "moral teaching of the Church."
"However, when people living in such unions request a child's baptism, almost all the responses emphasize that the child must be received with the same care, tenderness and concern which is given to other children," the document said.
DOCUMENT FOR VATICAN SYNOD
The 75-page document is a working paper for the Vatican synod of Catholic bishops to be held in October to discuss family issues.
In Latin the document is called "Instrumentum Laboris" and it is collated from responses to a 39-question survey to dioceses around the world ahead of the synod.
"Regarding same-sex unions, a distinction is made between the contexts in which civil legislation is more or less in favour; there is a need for pastoral care on the part of the particular Churches in these situations, including matters relating to children who may be present," said the document.
The Vatican had asked bishops to share the survey widely with parish priests with the intention of gleaming parishioners' views.
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of, whoe office produced the document, spoke about the document at a Vatican press briefing, Vatican Radio reported.
He said the questionnaire revealed Catholics show scarce familiarity with Church teachings and authority regarding marriage and family.
The cardinal suggested greater emphasis be placed on the preparation of pastoral care workers in different cultural and social contexts.
He named other pastoral challenges such as crises of faith, inadequate marriage preparation, internal family pressures like addiction to drugs, alcohol and even social networks.
There were also external economic, social and cultural factors such as jobs, unemployment, war, poverty, violence, migration and polygamy, which can negatively affect the family.
"Unmarried couples, separated and divorced Catholics and their children; unwed mothers and unbelievers or agnostics wishing to be married in the Catholic Church, present further challenges that require openhearted and merciful pastoral care so that people are welcomed and no one is excluded," said Vatican Radio.