An interesting document emerged Monday from a gathering of Catholic Bishops, signaling a possible change in manners if not policy.

According to Time, the Relatio post disceptationem is “a mid-Synod snapshot of 200+ Catholic leaders’ conversations that happened in the Synod hall last week.” It does not represent a shift in Catholic doctrine, and it could change.

Nonetheless, here’s the blockbuster section that has everyone flocking to Twitter:

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” the passage begins. “Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

It’s an open question in an open document, but one that emerges from an institution that moves extremely slowly.

How slowly? Another bombshell that got buried in the news is the church’s potential shift on divorce. Here’s CNN’s summary:

On the hotly debated question of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, the synod’s report offers a solution of the “penitential path” or a period of reflection and penance which would allow the partners in a second marriage to receive communion.

This solution, it says, must not be a “general possibility” but one which could be applied in certain cases. It would be up to the local bishop to make the decision.

The document states that this was only one possible solution and that the problem requires further study.

Clearly the church is debating how to adjust to the modern world without chucking its religious doctrine.

What does it mean then for the Catholic Church to “welcome” gays “without compromising”? We’re not sure the church knows yet. But it’s interesting to see more tolerance for homosexuals on the table, especially when humble condom-wearers are still out in the cold. Again, CNN:

The synod discussions re-iterated the church’s “appropriate teaching regarding natural methods” of birth control.

Citing economic factors which sometimes contribute to the decision not to have children, the synod nonetheless states that “being open to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love.”

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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