Advocates welcome Pope's remarks, await signals of change in church
Published Tuesday, July 30, 2013 8:56AM EDT
Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community are welcoming Pope Francis' apparent acceptance of homosexuals in the Roman Catholic Church, but are waiting to see if his comments on the issue lead to fundamental change.
Pope Francis shocked many when he told reporters on Monday that, on the subject of priests' sexual orientation, he's in no position to condemn.
"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? We shouldn't marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society," the pope said.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, the executive director of a Dignity USA, an organization seeking change for the LGBT community within the Catholic Church, told CTV’s Canada AM that the Pope’s words were a "welcome change."
"The way Pope Francis approached the issue of gays in the church is so different from what we've heard from his predecessors, that I think people just responded with great surprise and also with some excitement, wondering if this is opening the door to some changes," she said.
Duddy-Burke said it has been especially difficult for LGBT Catholics to see leaders of the church vocally oppose the expansion of their rights.
But now, LGBT Catholics are wondering if Francis' words are a signal to bishops and cardinals that "being seen to keep people oppressed is not appropriate for Catholic leaders anymore," she said.
While the Pope does not endorse homosexuality, his words took a more inclusive approach on the issue, compared to traditional Catholic teaching that views homosexual acts as "intrinsically disordered."
During his papacy, Pope Francis' predecessor Benedict XVI signed a document in 2005 that said men who had deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.
Despite this stance, Duddy-Burke said there has always been a contingent of gay church leaders.
"The reality is, there have been gay priests serving the church and serving it well for hundreds of years, the same as there are Catholic laypeople who are LGBT and nuns who are lesbians," she said.
"We’ve struggled to understand what is our place here. Hopefully the next step could be some real dialogue about the role of LGBT people in our church."
Gary Meier, a gay priest from St. Louis, told CTV News that he was "cautiously optimistic" following the Pope's comments.
Meier was ordained 15 years ago, but only recently went public with his homosexuality. He wrote a book about his experience as a gay priest earlier this year.
"I couldn’t say what I wanted to say because what I say is contrary to church teaching," he said.
When asked if Franciss shift in views might draw more people back to the church, Duddy-Burke said that the LGBT community will need to wait for those answers.
"I think people are taking a 'watch and see' attitude,” she said, adding that the church has always changed around its leadership.
"The question is: Will the leaders begin to catch up with the support that so many of us feel from the rest of the church."
With a report from CTV News’ Winnipeg Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon