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The Pope’s Progressive PR Moment: ‘Who am I to Judge’ Gay Priests?

The Catholic Church is usually one of the last institutions we would associate with words like “progressive” and “tolerant” in reference to homosexuality, but comments made by Pope Francis on Monday may signify the beginning of a major shift in attitude.

During a press conference aboard the pope’s overnight flight home from a week-long trip to Brazil, His Holiness was asked how he would respond to learning that a cleric in his ranks was gay, though not sexually active. Pope Francis answered by saying, “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?…You can’t marginalize these people.”

Considering that the Vatican has long regarded homosexuality as a disorder, and previous popes like Benedict XVI formally barred gay men from entering the priesthood, the weight of these remarks — though brief and simple as they may seem — cannot be overstated.

While it may be a far cry from full acceptance of homosexuals in the Catholic community (allowing gay couples to marry in Catholic churches, for instance), the pope’s comments demonstrate that his views differ greatly from those of his predecessors, and that his leadership may open the door to more progressive changes and attitudinal shifts in the future.

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