The Vatican, in the latest sign that this is not your daddy's Catholic Church, appears to be opening its arms to gay and divorced Catholics, urging its priests to make "courageous pastoral choices" that are inclusive to a bevy of family models outside the traditional one. The shift is part of a rough-draft report coming out of a two-week synod aimed at familial issues, reports the New York Times, and the bishops gathered are advising that the Church do things like find "positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation" and embrace "those who participate in (the Church's) life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcoming."
While a Church official emphasizes that the report is "a work in progress," NPR notes that Pope Francis stirred "heated debate" on the issue of divorced Catholics earlier this year, and asked a moderate cardinal to address his peers. "And many people say this is not the God of Jesus, because Jesus was very merciful—he forgives us—and the church does not," says German Cardinal Walter Kasper. When the pope himself was asked last year about it, he replied, "I believe that this is the season of mercy." A complete report is due next week, and while the Times notes that it's unlikely to toss doctrine on its head, this change in tone will reverberate in parishes globally. (Read more Vatican stories.)