By NICOLE WINFIELD
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is watering down a ground-breaking overture to gays — but only if they speak English.
After a draft report by bishops debating family issues came under criticism from conservative English-speaking bishops, the Vatican released a new translation on Thursday.
A section initially titled “Welcoming homosexuals” is now “Providing for homosexual persons,” and the tone of the text is significantly colder and less welcoming.
The initial English version — released Monday along with the original — accurately reflected the Italian version in both letter and spirit, and contained a remarkable tone of acceptance extended to gays. Conservatives were outraged.
The first version asked if the church was capable of “welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities.” The new version asks if the church is “capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing … them … a place of fellowship in our communities.”
The first version said homosexual unions can often constitute a “precious support in the life of the partners.” The new one says gay unions often constitute “valuable support in the life of these persons.”
In nearly all cases, the first version followed the official Italian version in verbatim; the second provides a different tone altogether.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said English-speaking bishops had requested the changes, arguing that the first translation was hasty and error-ridden.
When Lombardi was shown how significantly the meaning had changed, he pledged to investigate and didn’t rule out a third version.
Lombardi stressed that the original Italian remains the official text, and noted that the draft is being revised top-to-bottom for a final report which will go to a vote among bishops on Saturday.
If two-thirds approve it, the report will form the basis of discussions in dioceses around the world before another meeting of bishops next year.