LGBT groups and gay and lesbian Catholics have welcomed Pope Francis’ conciliatory stance towards gay people, although most say it’s not enough.
Francis was recently quoted as saying: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?”
He went on to say that although the Catholic Church still sees gay sex as a sin, gays and lesbians “should not be marginalised because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society”.
American LGBT Catholic coalition Equally Blessed said that it applauded the Pope’s statements.
“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,” said the organisation.
“Catholic leaders who continue to belittle gays and lesbians can no longer claim that their inflammatory remarks represent the sentiments of the Pope. Bishops who oppose the expansion of basic civil rights — such as an end to discrimination in the work place — can no longer claim that the pope approves of their discriminatory agenda,” added the group.
It said that the Pope had opened up an opprtunity for a “lively conversation that may one day make it possible for the church to fully embrace gay and lesbian Catholics”.
Chad Griffin, President of America’s Human Rights Campaign, said that “while Pope Francis’ words do not reflect a shift in Church policy, they represent a significant change in tone”.
He noted, however, that “as long as millions of LGBT Catholic individuals, couples and youth alike are told in churches big and small that their lives and their families are disordered and sinful because of how they are born — how God made them — then the Church is sending a deeply harmful message”.
Veteran British LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell commented that the Pope had shown “only marginal theological progress”.
“The church’s hardline stance against gay equality and relationships remains intact. It opposes same-sex marriage. The Catechism condemns homosexual love using strident, inflammatory and homophobic language,” said Tatchell.
“At best, his statement is a shift away from old-style vengeful condemnation and punishment towards a more conciliatory and merciful church. Although he preaches forgiveness, he still regards homosexuality as a sin for which people must repent,” he added.