Pope Francis Softens Stance Toward LGBT Community

By Chris Hoenig

Cardinal Timothy Dolan is backing Pope Francis’s comments about gay priests as a “change in tone or emphasis” toward the LGBT community.

In a nearly 90-minute news conference on his flight back from Brazil, the Pope spoke openly and directly about a subject the Catholic Church has long considered taboo and commonly ignored altogether. “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them They shouldn’t be marginalized,” Pope Francis told reporters in Italian. “The tendency is not the problem. They’re our brothers.”

Appearing on CBS This Morning on Tuesday, the Archbishop of New York said the Pope was unequivocal in his statement. “He’s articulating well, in a beautifully tender way, the traditional teachings of the church, that while certain acts may be wrong, we would always love and respect the person and treat the person with dignity,” Dolan said. “People are always saying, ‘Can we expect, now, changes in church teaching’ Of course, Pope Francis would be the first to say, ‘Well, my job isn’t to change church teaching, my job is to present it as clearly as possible.'”

“A person’s identity, respect, the dignity and love that he or she deserves, does not depend on anything—sexual orientation, how much money we’ve got, if we’ve got a green card or immigration papers, if we’ve got a stock portfolio. It doesn’t depend on anything other than the fact that we’re a child of God, made in his image.”

The Vatican was quick to point out that the Pope’s comments don’t apply only to gay priests, but also to the entire LGBT community. They mark a stark contrast from the hostile tone of Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who signed a document banning gay priests.

Community Welcomes Comments

The Pope’s comments are being welcomed by many in the LGBT community. Equally Blessed, a coalition of four Catholic organizations supporting LGBT people and their families, released a statement supporting the Pope’s “compassionate tone.”

“Pope Francis today uttered some of the most encouraging words a pontiff has ever spoken about gay and lesbian people. In doing so, he has set a great example for Catholics everywhere,” the statement read. “The Pope has rejected the harsh language of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for a compassionate approach and a pastoral tone. Lesbians and gays are no longer a ‘threat to civilization,’ rather they are people of faith and good will.”

Women Still Excluded

Even as Pope Francis opened the door to a better relationship with the LGBT community, however, he left another closed, saying the church will not have female priests anytime soon. While advocating for more leadership roles for women in other activities, the Pope said the ban on female priests is “definitive,” adding, “On the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and said no. John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed.”

Pope Francis did admit that the Catholic Church needs to better develop its understanding of women in the church, suggesting they could work in advanced administrative roles within the church.

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