Pope On Gays: Who Am I To Judge?

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WILKES-BARRE -- Pope Francis spent last week with millions of Catholics at World Youth Day in Brazil but it's what he said on the trip home that is getting attention worldwide.

The pope made a statement to reporters that many observers believe changes the church's tone when it comes to homosexuals.

We got reaction to the comment here in our area.

On his trip to World Youth Day in Brazil, Pope Francis drew millions of Catholics to worship and prayer, but it was what he said to reporters on the plane trip home that has caught the attention of millions and millions more worldwide.

When asked about gay priests, the pope replied, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

His statement does not change the church's teaching against homosexual activity, but it is a contrast to the stand taken by previous popes.

"I think it's a step in the right direction. There's a long way to go, though."

John Dawe is the head of NEPA Rainbow Alliance, a group representing the gay, lesbian, and transgendered in our area.  It has surveyed gay Catholics here. He says many of them have left the church.

"Northeastern Pennsylvania has a very large Catholic population and I think it's about time we find some welcoming churches to come on board in our faith network," Dawe said.

He welcomes a change in tone from the top.

"I think when someone in such a high profile position comes out and says it's not the church's position to judge folks, I think it's a huge step."

Rev. Drew Cottle is a scholar getting a doctorate in Christian Spirituality at La Salle University.  He believes the pope's comment will have an impact.

"I think it's a great message.  That's the message that I try to preach myself. It doesn't let my personal opinions show, but shows I am there to care for the person."

Rev. Cottle is also a Methodist pastor at churches in Throop and Dunmore. He says when this pope speaks, people in many faiths listen.

"It's amazing as he has continued in his office and grown into his office, how many people who aren't Catholic or don't even go to church, spiritual but not religious folks, watch what he says."

Bishop Joesph Bambera of the Diocese of Scranton released a statement about the pope's comments:

"Pope Francis has clearly reflected the long-standing teaching of the
Church. The Church welcomes all people, regardless of their sexual
attractions. The Catechism of the Catholic church notes that individuals
with same sex attractions must be accepted with compassion, respect and
sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination must be avoided. Pope
Francis has shared nothing new regarding Church teaching but has simply
expressed in a new way that all are welcome to journey with us in the
Church on the path of faith toward a deeper relationship with Jesus."

The pope also told reporters on the trip back to the Vatican that he believes divorced Catholics should receive the sacraments and that he wants to see a greater role for women in the church, but not as priests.