Gays and Catholicism: Pope's words open door to confusion

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — An ideological tug of war over the firing of a Rhode Island church music director for marrying his same-sex partner illustrates the confusion that permeates some U.S. Roman Catholic parishes over Pope Francis' words on homosexuality.

Francis' famous declaration "Who am I to judge?" in 2013 energized Catholics who had pushed the church to accept gays and lesbians. Now, some gay Catholics and supporters who hoped for rapid acceptance find themselves stymied by many bishops and pastors.

The pope has upheld Catholic teaching on homosexuality, reiterating the church's opposition to same-sex relationships. But his shift in tone and broad statements about mercy have left a trail of comments that amount to a Rorschach test open to interpretation, say those who have closely followed Francis.

"Pope Francis has not said, 'Here's what you should do in a parish where you have a music director who has married his partner of the same sex,'" said the Rev. James T. Bretzke. "Pope Francis is articulating general principles: forgiveness and mercy and not harsh judgment. But how you handle a particular case like this, he has been very reluctant to weigh in on it."

That means a gay Catholic's fate depends on his diocese or individual pastor.

Student Reactions

David Lavanchy, freshman political science major

“[The church should] change its position, just because people need to be more open of other people's life decisions," Lavanchy said. "That shouldn’t determine his ability to be a Catholic.”

Olivia Lee, sophomore general studies major

“Being a Christian and very religious, I think they should keep it the same just because that’s the way it was before and that’s what it says in the Bible,” Lee said.

Maren Fodrea, freshman undecided major

“I’m a Christian and I think homosexuality is wrong so I think they’re correct in what they already think and believe,” Fodrea said.

Akrem Ahmed, sophomore biology and psychology major

“I know it’s a huge controversy when it comes to religion and everything but I don’t think that really matters, but of course I’m not the pope though," Ahmed said.