Activists lashed out Sunday at the Catholic Church's failure at a major synod to open its doors to gay people, but praised Pope Francis for getting bishops to confront "taboos."
After two weeks of fierce debate, the prelates sidelined three paragraphs touching on the hot-button issues of creating a more welcome stance towards gays and allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion.
That disappointed gay activists who had hoped the liberal-leaning pope would be able to bring groundbreaking change at the conference of bishops.
"Once more, members of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church have erred on the side of hypocrisy and fear," said Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, from the Human Rights Campaign, a prominent US gay group.
Opponents "prevailed, ignoring Pope Francis' message of inclusion and respect, and fundamentally rejecting the voices and lives of (sexual minority) Catholics," she said.
But others saw pluses in the synod at the Vatican.
"It's at least a positive thing that our reality was put on the table," said the co-president of a Christian gay group in France, saying she was "disappointed but not surprised".
"Even if the text wasn't approved, and that is a shame, it will have effects. The debate will continue," Elisabeth Saint-Guily told AFP.
Another gay activist said: "We want all social actors, (including) churches, to recognise the reality of our existence, our families, so it's too bad."
Thomas Linard, spokesman of Inter-LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals) added however that it was an internal matter for the Catholic Church.
The outcome of the synod was widely seen as a setback for the 77-year-old pope, but papal biographer Marco Politi said: "It was the opposite of a defeat."
Writing in the left-wing paper Il Fatto Quotidiano, Politi said: "The pope got the synod to open up to talking about subjects that were taboo."
The full document, including the contentious paragraphs that failed to garner the necessary support of two-thirds of the bishops, was made public at the pope's request in what another analyst called "a decisive move".
"This has never happened," said Gian Guido Vecchi of leading Italian daily Corriere della Sera. As a result, he said in an email: "This is still a working document. The three points still achieved an absolute majority and so we are moving forward, the discussions must 'mature'."
Rather than suffering a setback, "on the contrary, the pope is moving forward," Vecchi said.
Vatican expert Andrea Tornielli said he did not think Francis sought to "impose" his views on the bishops. "To the contray, it is by focussing on the reality, the daily lives of Christians, complex situations, the challenges (they face) that solutions can arise."
Nor can it be said that the conservatives imposed their "rigid line", he said. "The truth is that the pope himself wanted a true, frank, free discussion as has never happened before.... (Publishing) the entire document... is an exercise in transparency."
The spiritual leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics had called for the Church to take a more merciful approach to unmarried mothers, remarried divorcees and gays, famously saying of homosexuals, "Who am I to judge?"
Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn told reporters that the adopted text was "much more reserved" than the draft document, reflecting opposition from bishops from "very different cultural situations".
The vote's outcome reflects the attitude of the top echelons of the Church towards reform -- and ultimately towards Francis's rule, which has been coloured since his election in March 2013 by a determination to show the more humane side of the centuries-old institution.
The fallout from the ideological clashes has already caused at least one head to roll.
Outspoken conservative American cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, currently head of the Vatican's top canon law court, confirmed to Buzzfeed late on Friday that he is being removed from his job to be made patron to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, an honorary post.
Burke has strongly criticised the pope's attempt to shift the church to the left, saying: "The pope is not free to change the Church's teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith."
This synod will be followed by a year of consultations, and a follow-up questionnaire will be sent out to dioceses around the world. A second, larger synod will then be held in October 2015.
After that, the results will be handed to the Argentinian pope, who will have the final say in outlining the Church's stance on family matters.
Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits -- to which Francis belongs -- told the I.Media religious news agency to watch for a possible "revolution" a year from now.