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Pope Francis Says the Church Shouldn’t Marginalize Its Gay Members

"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Francis asked

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Pope Francis on the day he became pope. Photo: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Today, the recently selected Pope Francis, leader of the Roman Catholic Church, said that a homosexual shouldn’t be judged by his church, so long as that man is also deeply religious, reports the Associated Press.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis asked. “We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”

The Pope’s forgiveness has its limits, though: being a homosexual is to be forgiven, carrying out “homosexual acts” is still a sin according to church doctrine, says Reuters.

Francis’ remarks don’t stray from the church’s position on homosexuality, but they do stray markedly from both the comments of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who was strongly anti-gay, and even from Francis’ past position on homosexuality.

When Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March the New Yorker asked if the new pope—the first from a country with legalized gay marriage—could be a reformer for homosexuals in the church. What they found is that Pope Francis had taken a strong stance against Argentina’s marriage reform decision:

In the debate leading up to the successful passage of same-sex-marriage legislation in his home country, then-Cardinal Bergoglio was a strong and vocal opponent, most famously saying, in a private letter to nuns that became public,

“Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Pope Francis has referred to adoption by gay parents as a form of “discrimination against children.” Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the President of Argentina, said that Francis’s remarks suggested “medieval times and the Inquisition.”

According to the New Yorker, “there is nothing in Pope Francis’s record to suggest that the Church will be any more welcoming to gay Catholics or on the subject of gay rights.”

But, since taking his place at the top of the Church, Pope Francis seems to have changed his tune—at least a little. Today’s remarks seem to clarify Francis’ stance, delineating him from many earlier men who held his position.

For a cultural institution with as long and troubled a relationship with homosexuality as the Roman Catholic Church, having its leader say that it will forgive and forget the sexual orientations of its gay members——so long as they don’t actually act on their desires—would be an important, if limited, symbolic step towards equality and inclusivity.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio Chosen As New Pope
The Catholic Church Is Getting Less Strict About Miracles 

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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