- Lack of consensus reveals deep divisions in the church
- An interim report had praised gay relationships
- Gay rights groups called revised report "disappointing"
Catholic bishops ended a tense, two-week summit in Rome on Saturday without agreeing on how to minister to gays and lesbians or whether divorced and remarried Catholics should receive Holy Communion.
An interim report issued on Monday, and greeted with great fanfare from liberal Catholics, was heavily revised by Saturday. Sections were removed that had praised the "gifts" gays and lesbians offer the church, as well as the "precious support" same-sex partners give to one other.
Even the revised sections, though, failed to garner a two-thirds consensus from the nearly 200 bishops meeting here, revealing deep divisions in the highest levels of the Catholic Church.
The bishops were summoned by Pope Francis to figure out how present the church's teachings on sexuality and family life, which is seen as outdated in many parts of the world, according to polls.
But more difficult issues, especially homosexuality, eluded agreement, and led to an unusual amount of public bickering by bishops. CNN Vatican analyst John Allen compared the summit to a soap opera.
Part of the problem may have been built into the process.
The synod released the interim report, offering a "snapshot," in the words of a church spokesman, halfway through the closed-door meetings. That report contained a strikingly tolerant tone toward gays and lesbians, earning widespread praise from gay rights groups.
But some bishops, mainly conservatives, complained that the interim report did not accurately portray the synod's discussions.
"Boy, does this ever need some revisions," Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who attended the summit, told CBS News on Wednesday.
By Saturday, those revisions were evident.
The unprecedented welcome to gays and lesbians and recognition of their "gifts"? Gone.
The acknowledgment that same-sex couples offer each other "precious support?" Arrivederci.
The more tolerant take on cohabitating couples and openness toward remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion? Nowhere in sight.
Instead, the final report says the bishops will "study" the divorce and Communion issue. On same-sex couples, the bishops said there is "no foundation" for comparing gay unions to "God's design of matrimony and the family."
"Nonetheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy," the bishops said.
The bishops backed the revised paragraph about gays and lesbians by a vote of 118-62, short of the two-thirds majority needed to be considered a consensus by Vatican rules. Pope Francis, though, decided to release the entire report, even the unapproved sections, the Vatican said.
In any case, the document is still a "work in progress" according to a Vatican spokesman. It is part of the preparations for a second synod to be held next October. Francis will have the final word when he releases his own interpretation of the bishops' two meetings in light of Catholic teaching.
For his part, the Pope addressed the bishops Saturday as their summit concluded and urged them to take a middle road between "hostile rigidity" and a "false sense of mercy."
"Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas," the Pope said, "and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront."
Francis' speech was followed by a four-minute ovation, according to a Vatican spokesmen.
Gay and lesbian groups in the United States, however, called the bishops' report "very disappointing."
"This result shows that there is still much to be examined and explored on LGBT issues in the Church," said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry.
"Let's hope and pray that at next year's synod, the bishops will invite lesbian and gay people and couples to give their personal testimonies, so that the bishops can learn firsthand about their experiences of faith and love."