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    Pope Francis Reaches Out to the Gay Community

    On the occasion of his election, I wrote about Pope Francis in the Bay Times. I suggested Francis might bring a much needed and new pastoral tone to LGBTQ issues and people. Last week, flying back from World Youth Day in Brazil, Francis did exactly this in an 80-minute interview with journalists.

    Francis spoke of the need for gay people to be included, rather than marginalized, in the church. Indeed, he is the first Pope to use the word “gay” rather than “homosexual” or “those who are same-sex attracted.” Francis chose to quote gay positive parts of the Catholic catechism. (I know it will come as a surprise to some readers to hear that there actually are gay positive parts of the catechism!)

    In speaking about priests, Francis said that if someone is gay, follows the Lord, and does good, then who is he to judge? This contrasts with a 2005 Vatican document that, on the face of it, seemed to say that gay people are not welcome as priests. In his blog, Andrew Sullivan quotes a gay priest friend saying to another gay priest friend that he never thought he would see the day when a Pope accepted his being gay, but not his driving a Lexus!

    Francis has not changed the teaching of the church, however, he has changed forever the way we will talk about this issue as Church. In showing us this new tone, he is saying that he opposes homophobia. This different, and much more pastoral, approach will have consequences regarding relations with gay people inside and outside the Church. For example, Francis is affirming the pastoral approach that has been t

    aken by parishes such as Most Holy Redeemer for decades.

    And with his respectful attitude he is laying down groundwork for an eventual dialogue on issues regarding sexuality generally. This most likely would take place in a future General Ecumenical Council.

    As I said in a letter to The Irish Times: “At long last gay Catholics do not need to hide at the back of our churches at Mass just as once black Catholics did in the United States. Thank you, Francis!”

    Fr. Donal Godfrey, S.J., is the Associate Director for Faculty and Staff Spirituality, University Ministry, at the University of San Francisco.