June 26th, 2014
12:14 PM ET
By Delia Gallagher, CNN
ROME (CNN) - The Vatican said Thursday that gays and lesbians must be treated with respect, their children may be baptized in the church, and admitted that Catholic priests are sometimes unsure about how to deal with same-sex couples.
There is a “certain unease at the challenge of accepting these people with a merciful spirit and, at the same time, holding to the moral teaching of the Church,” the Vatican said in a document, called an Instrumentum Laboris.
The 75-page document is a compilation of the results of a survey sent to 114 bishops’ conferences around the world. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Synod, said that 85% of the conferences responded to the survey.
The document will be used as a guideline for discussions at a synod, a meeting of top Catholic bishops convened by Pope Francis, to be held in Rome in October.
The official name of the synod is "The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization."
Another synod to be held in October 2015, will provide further reflection on the questions before presenting a final document to the Pope.
Well before the Vatican released Thursday's document, a national bishops' conference in Germany and Switzerland said their surveys exposed a wide gap between church teaching and lay Catholics' personal views.
"Most of the baptized have an image of the church that, on the one hand, is family friendly in its attitude, whilst at the same time considering her sexual morality to be unrealistic," the German bishops said, according to National Catholic Reporter.
Bishops in the United States declined to make their survey results public.
While the Vatican document release Thursday does not change church teaching on homosexuality, it aligns with Pope Francis' softer tone toward gays and lesbians, made famous last July with his question, "Who am I to judge?"
The document firmly rejects gay marriage, for instance, but also said Catholics leaders, “are trying to find a balance between the Church’s teaching on the family and a respectful, non-judgmental attitude towards people living in such unions.”
“A distinction must be made,” the Instrumentum Laboris says, “between those who have made a personal, and often painful, choice and live that choice discreetly so as not to give scandal to others, and those whose behavior promotes and actively – often aggressively – calls attention to it.”
One suggestion recommends, “not using phrases such as ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’ or ‘homosexual’ to define a person’s identity,” in order to “take every aspect of the person into consideration.”
Another suggestion is a “theological study in dialogue with the human sciences to develop a multi-faceted look at the phenomenon of homosexuality.”
The document also emphasizes that when gay couples request baptism for their children, “the child must be received with the same care, tenderness and concern which is given to other children.”
Other topics to be addressed at the Synod include contraception, and in vitro fertilization, cohabitation, separated, divorced and remarried persons, and teen mothers.
(CNN's Daniel Burke contributed reporting.)
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