As Catholic support for marriage grows, Pope Francis makes inclusive statement on clergy

Today, Pope Francis made an inclusive statement about gay members of the Catholic clergy, commenting that it is not up to him to judge Catholic priests based on who they love. He said:

If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and is of good will, who am I to judge him? ... The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a very clear way. It says that these people should not be marginalized. They should be integrated into society.

While the Pope's comments from this morning don't reflect any change in policy, they do signal an important values statement from the leader: That gay people should not be marginalized from the Catholic Church. The statement represents a shift from Pope Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who was opposed to allowing gay men to become priests. The Catholic Church continues to work as one of the key funders opposed to the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian people, but we hope that Pope Francis' change in tone toward acceptance is a signal that perspectives on gay and lesbian people are shifting in the Church hierarchy.

After all, although the official policies of the Church continue to call for the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage, we've seen time and again that this position from the Church hierarchy is out of step with a growing majority of Catholics. A February 2013 poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News tracked support for the freedom to marry among American Catholics at 62 percent. Similar polls have also found consistent and solid majority support for marriage among Catholics and suggest that they are one of the most supportive religious denominations toward gay people.

 Fair-minded Catholics support the freedom to marry because of their faith - not in spite of it. They believe in values such as the Golden Rule, which tells them to treat others the way they would want to be treated. They have reflected on why marriage matters, and understand that supporting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples is consistent with their beliefs that all people are created in God's image - and that the greatest commitment is love. They understand that marriage is the only way to make this lifetime commitment.

Catholics have also increasingly grown to understand that marriage laws that extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in states across the country apply to civil marriage and have fair protections of religious freedom. No Catholic priest or church - or any religious institution - would ever be forced to perform a marriage it does not support, and that includes marriages for gay couples.

It remains to be seen whether the Church hierarchy will implement Pope Francis' values statement of refusing to marginalize gay people from the Church - but we hope that Church officials will look toward the majority of Catholics who support the freedom to marry as they move forward.  

Read more about Catholic support for the freedom to marry HERE.