The New Ways Ministry, a Mt. Rainier, Md.-based 36-year-old national Catholic ministry for LGBT people and the wider church community, issued a statement following Pope Francis’ comments last week regarding gay priests.
“Pope Francis’ statement on accepting and respecting gay priests is a clear sign that this pope will be taking a more conciliatory approach to LGBT issues than his immediate predecessors have done,” says the statement, written by gay Catholics group New Ways’ executive director Francis DeBernardo.
“Unlike John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who approached LGBT topics through the lens of sexuality and sin, Pope Francis is signaling a new direction, which is based on the Catholic principles of human dignity, respect, and social integration. … Some will say that Francis’ statement is not enough, that he still refers to sins of homosexuals, but I think the important thing is the question of emphasis. … Change in the church is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Though this statement is not the change which many of us hope for, that is, the full equality of LGBT people in our church, it is a necessary first step toward that change.”
DeBernardo told the Blade, “Generally, I’m overjoyed by what the pope said.”
The Archbishop of Baltimore, William Lori, also commented on the pope’s remarks saying that they do not represent a shift in the church’s position on homosexuality. Lori told WBAL-TV, “The Holy Father is not going to make up church doctrine at a news conference.” But he added that the church teaches understanding and compassion and that the doors are open.