Photos courtesy of AP
While the relationship between the Catholic Church and the gay community has always been rather, let's say antagonistic, there's been some progress toward understanding recently. Yes, it's a small, modicum of progress, but it may be a step in the right direction now that Pope Francis told reporters that he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation.
The New York Times reports that he told journalists, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"
Compare this statement to those of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who signed a Vatican document in 2005 that said men with homosexual tendencies should not become priests, and one begins to feel some optimism for the church's future.
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well," Francis said in the 80-minute long interview on a flight back from Rio de Janeiro. "It says [gay men] should not be marginalized because of this but that they must be integrated into society."
Before you get the impression that this is a total sea change for the Church, Francis followed up with a line about a "gay agenda."
"The problem is not having this orientation," he said. "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."
Ah, the old "gay lobby" boogieman. Because it's such a rational idea that the gays, along with the Masons, the Jews, and the Girl Scouts of America all get together and conspire to bring about a New World Order. The Pope, according to the BBC, also reaffirmed that though homosexual tendencies are not sinful, homosexual acts are.
If you weren't already rolling your eyes, wait until you hear Francis' views on women in the Church. They, like his views on gays in the Church, are by far more progressive than his predecessors'--in that John Paul II and Benedict's views on female priests were basically "fuggedaboutit"--but that doesn't amount to much. Francis is seeking a "theology of women" and a greater role for them in Catholic life, according to The National Catholic Reporter. "We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity," said Francis. "There must be more. But with regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says no...That door is closed."
Francis' words may seem paltry in comparsion to those of retired Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu, keep in mind that this is the Catholic Chruch. They only got around to forgiving John Lennon for saying the Beatles were "bigger than Jesus" three years ago.
In summation: The Pope's views can be chalked up to a baby step in the right direction...maybe.