The first openly
gay Episcopal bishop insisted Wednesday he was not
encouraging Roman Catholics to leave their church when he
criticized its view of gays during a recent speech in London.
New Hampshire bishop V. Gene Robinson, at a
service Friday commemorating the 10th anniversary of
Changing Attitude, a British group that advocates full
inclusion of gays in the Anglican faith community, noted
during his talk that many Catholics in his home state
were becoming Episcopalian.
"Pope Ratzinger may be the best thing that ever
happened to the Episcopal Church," Robinson said,
referring to former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is
now Pope Benedict XVI. But Robinson said in a phone
interview Wednesday from New Hampshire that he was
recounting what a Catholic woman told him about why
she was joining the Protestant denomination--not
expressing his own opinion. He said the woman was
disappointed that the successor to Pope John Paul II would
probably not make any significant changes in Catholic teaching.
Robinson said he had commented on Catholic
issues in response to a question from a gay Catholic
struggling with his place in his church. Catholic
teaching considers gay sex "intrinsically disordered."
Robinson said he told the man that it was an
"act of violence against gay folk" that the Vatican
was considering instructing its seminaries to bar
homosexuals and viewed it as an attempt by Catholic leaders
to blame gays for the clergy sex abuse crisis. But
Robinson said he told the young man that he should
live "such that the light of Christ so shone through
him that no one in his church could doubt his full
membership in the body of Christ."
"I was not encouraging this young Roman Catholic
man to be confrontative in any way," Robinson said.
Robinson's 2003 consecration sparked a crisis
within world Anglicanism; the majority of Anglicans
overseas believe same-sex relationships violate
Scripture. It also has created tensions between the
77-million-member Anglican Communion and other
denominations, including the Catholic Church. The
Episcopal Church is the communion's U.S. branch. (AP)