Gay Community Cautiously Cheering a New Catholic Tone

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( — October 10, 2014)  — Gay rights groups cautiously greet a shift in tone from the Catholic Church toward homosexuals, encouraged by Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” position when asked in 2013 about rumors that a top priestly adviser had a gay lover.

“It’s a sign of a first step.” said Francis De Bernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group, emphasizing that he is seeing this move is a crack in the ice that they have been waiting for, for a very long time.

Church teaching holds that gay acts are “sinful” and that homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered.”

“I know scores of people who have left the Catholic Church because of those words,” De Bernardo said.

However, at the same time, Vatican proclaims respect and compassion towards homosexuals and that they must not suffer discrimination.

The Vatican’s top canon lawyer, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, made clear Thursday that the Vatican will never endorse gay marriage or even homosexual unions.

“Look, you can talk about everything, you can say everything, but you also have to be honest and say that for us – and not just the Catholic Church but for human culture in general – marriage is between a man and woman,” he told reporters

Despite that rigid position, there’s no doubt that a shift in tone actually occurred. “The next step is for gays to be at the table offering their testimony to bishops,” De Bernardo said.

“I think the change in language starts a chain reaction: A change in language will bring a change in pastoral practice which will bring about a change in teaching,” he said as two Catholic heterosexual couples have spoken about experiences of devout Catholics welcoming gays or trying to provide pastoral care for them.

However, conservative Catholic groups are not that enthusiastic.

Patrick Buckley of Voice of the Family, which counts several pro-life conservative groups as members said the church upholds the truth about human sexuality and is always compassionate to those who have same-sex attraction.

“It is disingenuous to claim that the church is failing homosexual people,” he said.