WATCH: LGBT-Supportive Catholics React Positively to Pope's Statements

Although Roman Catholic doctrine isn't changing — yet — Pope Francis's recently published comments offer hope for increasing acceptance of LGBT people by the church, activists say.

BY Trudy Ring

September 20 2013 4:27 PM ET

Pope Francis

Pope Francis’s comments about gay people in his wide-ranging interview in America magazine are receiving much positive reaction from LGBT Roman Catholics and their allies.

“We find much to be hopeful about, particularly in the pope’s firm desire that the Church be a ’home for all people,’ and his belief that God looks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with love rather than condemnation,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the LGBT Catholic organization DignityUSA, in a statement published on the group’s website.

Francis De Bernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an LGBT-supportive Catholic group, wrote in a blog post that the interview “signals a new dawn of hope and promise for LGBT Catholics.” New Ways cofounder Sister Jeannine Gramick discussed the interview on MSNBC’s News Nation (watch below), saying the pope is “trying to get us back to the Gospel, to the real essential message of Jesus. The essential message is that Jesus came to proclaim God’s love, God’s love for each and every person, no matter if we agree with them or not.”

Among the pope’s comments in the interview: “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

He said that when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, “I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During [a recent] return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

He also said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

Some of the positive comments on Pope Francis’s statements were tempered with caution, as he has not called for changes in Roman Catholic doctrine on gay relationships, contraception, and abortion; the church still teaches that all these are sinful and that LGBT people should be celibate.

“While there is more work to do, we remain hopeful transformation is afoot,” said a statement issued by Jim Fitzgerald, executive director of Call to Action, another pro-LGBT Catholic group. He also said, “We were encouraged to hear Pope Francis speak of continued discernment and reform. As this spirit of change begins to reach up towards all levels of our church, we look forward to working with all those who seek to embody a more accountable, inclusive, and just church.”

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