Rochester responds to Pope Francis's comments on gay clergy

Posted at: 07/29/2013 10:18 PM | Updated at: 07/29/2013 11:26 PM
By: Lynette Adams |

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"Who am I to judge", those words from Pope Francis as told reporters he will not judge priests based on their sexual orientation. He also said gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.

While it doesn't change policy for the Catholic church, gay leaders call it progress.

Catholics say this is probably the most significant step the papacy has ever made towards embracing and accepting members of the gay community, but they're not quite sure what it means.

When Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata's oldest son, Jim, came out of the closet 25 years ago, these devout Catholics weren't quite sure what to do.

Mary Ellen Lopata said, “We didn't know a whole lot about what the church taught at that point, except we knew that it was wrong in the church's eyes.”

They decided to stay in the Catholic church and work from within to make changes. The nationwide organization, Fortunate Families, came out of their personal experience. It's a non-profit advocacy organization for Catholic parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children. They've worked to help make the church more inclusive of the LGBT community. So the Pope's comments are monumental.

Casey Lopata said, “This has opened a door. It seems to signal a willingness to dialogue.”

Casey Lopata says it is reminiscent of something that happened in Rochester 16 years ago.

Casey Lopata said, “Back in 1997, here in Rochester, Bishop Clark said a mass with gay and lesbian people, family and friends at the time a lot of people weren't very happy with it and he later wrote an article in the Catholic Courier and title of the article said, 'Listen, leave the judgment to God' and that's exactly what Pope Francis said today.”

The Rochester Catholic Diocese did not have an official comment. Father Kevin McKenna is the priest at Sacred Heart Cathedral, he says the Pope's comments as very positive.

Fr. Kevin McKenna, Cathedral Community, said, “I think he's inviting people to look at the church again, if perhaps, over the years, especially if people have had in misconceptions about its teachings. I think he's trying to say look at us again, see what the church has to offer. We are a welcoming community and we want to make sure all people feel welcome in the Catholic church.”

Fr. McKenna says these statements could be a part of the Pope's concern about people and how the church is serving their needs. He says the Pope is encouraging priests to leave their church buildings and hit the streets looking for people, not waiting for people to come to the church.

Fr. McKenna said he didn't hear any specific mention from the Pope that this means anything is going to change in terms of the church's moral stance on homosexuality. He thinks it is more about making anyone and everyone who comes to the church feel welcome.

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