The pressure on the New York Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Committee to approve of Irish gay groups marching just hit critical mass.
Yesterday, in a preliminary report published half way through a Vatican synod on family life, an assembly of 200 bishops, offered a remarkable change in the Church’s tone over gay rights issues.
Homosexuals have real “gifts and qualities to offer” the report said, adding that the Church could now see its way toward greater acceptance of gays and toward recognizing positive aspects of the relationships of same-sex couples.
The news created an immediate international sensation. Vatican expert and author of the 2013 bestselling book "The Vatican Diaries" John Thavis called yesterday's document “an earthquake” in the Church’s attitude towards gays.
The news comes as 30 US states have legalized same sex marriage and public attitudes have moved toward greater acceptance.
The Vatican document, read to the synod yesterday in the presence of Pope Francis, follows on from his own publicly expressed desire to offer a more merciful tone toward homosexuals and other Catholics in “irregular situations” such as cohabitation before marriage.
But the change in tone does not imply a change in doctrine, however. The statement says that gay unions “cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman,” but the Church says it now recognizes there are many positive aspects to relationships between same-sex couples.
Observers described yesterday’s synod statement as a concerted response to the growing perception that the Church is increasingly out of step with the views of most practicing Catholics.
It’s a process that is ongoing. Last year Pope Francis made it clear he felt the Church needed to be much more compassionate toward homosexuals, saying: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”
The latest Vatican statement puts the New York St. Patrick’s Day Committee, which has steadfastly refused to permit Irish gay groups to march under their own banners, to the right of even the Pope himself, an increasingly unsupportable position.
Last month Cardinal Dolan, a dependably conservative voice in the US Church, took on critics who attacked him for agreeing to be Grand Marshall of the 2015 Fifth Avenue parade, which will for the first time permit one gay group to march.
“According to the critics, I should have refused, due to the Parade Committee’s decision to allow a group of self-identified Gays of Irish ancestry to march in the parade with their own banner,” Dolan wrote in the Diocesan Newspaper. “I’ll stand by my decision,” he added.
Having been abandoned by the Mayor, the Cardinal, the Vatican and now even Pope Francis, it seems that the parade committee diehards now only have Bill Donohue – and no one else – left to call the shots.