In what is probably his most gay-friendly statement to date, Pope Francis said that he will not judge gay priests, and he respects their vocation.
The New York Times quotes his response to a reporter’s question about gay priests, asked during a press conference on the plane ride back to Rome from World Youth Day celebrations in Brazil:
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
This is probably the clearest break with his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Benedict issued an instruction to bishops not to accept gay candidates for the seminary, a policy that was being considered under John Paul’s papacy.
The Chicago Tribune expanded on the pope’s comments on this topic:
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society.
“”The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem.”
The pope was answering a question about his statement last month concerning a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, so his reference to lobbies above probably refers to that context.
The Tribune also noted that Francis joked about his “gay lobby” comment:
“You see a lot written about the gay lobby. I still have not seen anyone in the Vatican with an identity card saying they are gay.”
The New York Times expanded on the gay lobby comment, and also allegations of gay trysts happening among staff at the Vatican Bank:
“Reporters on the plane said that the pope had been candid and high-spirited and didn’t dodge a single question, even thanking the person who asked about reports of a ‘gay lobby’ inside the Vatican, and about Italian press reports that one of the advisers he had appointed to look into the Vatican Bank had been accused of having gay trysts.
“Francis said he had investigated the reports and found them groundless. He added that while such a lobby would be an issue, he did not have anything against gays and that their sins should be forgiven, media reports said. He said that while homosexuals should be treated with dignity, using sexual orientation for blackmail or pressure was a different matter.”
Many people have been waiting for a clear message from Pope Francis on LGBT issues, and it seems like this one indicates he will take a decidedly different approach than his immediate predecessors had done.
Some will say that this is not enough, that he still refers to sins of homosexuals, but I think the important thing is the question of emphasis. While his predecessors emphasized sin in relationship to LGBT people, Pope Francis looks like he will be emphasizing human dignity, respect, and social integration. Even if he doesn’t drop the sin language, this is still a major step forward, and one that can pave the way for further advancements down the road.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry