Parents react to Vatican’s outreach to gays

priest 3A Vatican document released today uses unprecedented language toward gay Catholics and “is an answer to a million prayers,” said Linda Karle-Nelson, who with her husband leads the Detroit-area Fortunate Families support group of Catholics with gay family members.

Bishops from around the world who are meeting at the Vatican to discuss issues concerning families read a revolutionary document in front of Pope Francis, that signaled a greater acceptance of gay people, divorced Catholics and those living together outside of marriage.

While the church did not reverse its opposition to gay marriage, the statement signaled a huge shift in public attitude.

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home,” the Vatican document said.

Oh my God. Oh my God. It’s all the result of this pope,” said Karle-Nelson, 74, of Farmington Hills, referring to Pope Francis, whose 19-month-old papacy is changing the tone of Catholic teaching. “If he hadn’t come in, I don’t think this would have happened.”

“He’s made it possible for people to start thinking in a new way,” said Karle-Nelson. She and her husband Tom Nelson, 85, were both widowers when they met at meetings in the 1990s of PFLAG – the country’s top advocacy group for gay rights. Both are lifelong Catholics, and are both parents of adult gay sons.

“This is an answer to a million prayers. Nothing like we ever thought we would hear,” said Karle-Nelson. “It’s such a 180 degrees from what we hear from the Catholic bishops in the United States. This is going to bring them up short and they’re going to have to start thinking in a new way.”

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