0404-pope-francis-women.jpg_full_600It’s not news that much of the Catholic faith has been excluding of the LGBT community. Although the majority of the general population (53% according to a Gallup poll) has accepted same-sex marriage, religion has been slower to catch on. Those attitudes may be shifting. Recently, Pope Francis issued a comment about homosexuality in the priesthood – specifically, regarding how he would respond to learning that a cleric in his ranks was gay but not sexually active. Previously, Pope Benedict XVI (Pope Francis’ predecessor) barred homosexual men from entering the priesthood by signing a church document in 2005. But Pope Francis had a different answer:

Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord? You can’t marginalize these people.

This comment was prompted by a reporter asking Francis about Italian news reports of a “gay lobby” inside the Vatican (which regards homosexuality as a “disorder”), with clerics blackmailing one another with information about sexual missteps.

Francis said, “They say there are some gay people here. I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good.”

He added that such a lobby would be an issue, but that he did not have anything against homosexuals and that their sins should be forgiven like those of all Catholics. Francis said that homosexuals should be treated with dignity, and that no one should be subjected to blackmail or pressure due to sexual orientation. “The problem isn’t having this orientation. The problem is making a lobby.”

Although Francis is not suggesting that priests or anyone should act on homosexual tendencies (because the church still considers it a sin), this comment is revolutionary and will generate more discussion. Paolo Rodari, a Vatican expert at the Italian daily La Repubblica, said of Francis’ comment:

It’s not a great opening in terms of contents, but the fact that he talked about it that way is a great novelty. Francis would probably agree with Benedict’s writings on homosexuality, but it doesn’t interest him. It interests him to say that the problem in the end isn’t if someone has this tendency, the important thing is to live in the light of God. Said by a pope, it’s enormous.

In other news, Francis also told reporters that while Pope John Paul II had definitively closed the door to female priests, he sought a “theology of women” and a greater role for them in Catholic life, news reports said. The pope’s comments on homosexuals and women in the church were signs of a shift in doctrine. Francis was elected for his belief that the Catholic Church must engage in dialogue with the world — even with those it disagrees with — if it wants to stay vibrant and relevant. In his 5 months serving as Pope, Francis seems more accessible, tolerant and realistic than those before him. I’m excited to see how this discussion is carried further. Sources: Huffington Post, New York Times