Church should not dismiss gay marriage out of hand, says Pope
POPE Francis says the issue of gay marriage should be studied and not dismissed out-of-hand, a senior Roman Catholic cardinal has revealed.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the outspoken archbishop of New York, said Pope Francis had told him: "Rather than quickly condemn them, let's just ask the questions as to why that has appealed to certain people."
Archbishop Dolan stressed that the Pope had not shifted the Catholic Church's position on same-sex unions.
"It wasn't as if he came out and approved them," he told the NBC television network in the US.
But the Pope wanted senior church leaders to "look into" the issue and to scrutinise the reasons why many countries have legalised same-sex marriages.
In an interview last week with 'Corriere della Sera', a leading Italian daily newspaper, the Pope stressed that the church continued to regard marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
But he did say that countries around the world were "normalising different arrangements of cohabitation" and that "we must consider different cases and evaluate each particular case".
The Vatican immediately tried to play down his remarks, saying that: "We should not try to read more into the Pope's words than what has been stated in very general terms."
Pope Francis has shown a softer, more inclusive stance on core issues of concern to the Catholic Church since being elected Pope on March 13 last year.
Last July, when asked about homosexual priests, he said: "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?"
He added: "We shouldn't marginalise people for this. They must be integrated into society."
His comments did not fundamentally change the policy of the Catholic Church, which holds that while homosexual orientation is not in itself sinful, homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered".
But they signalled that Francis accepted that some priests were gay, and that it was acceptable as long as they adhered to their vow of celibacy, marking a more compassionate stance on the issue than predecessors.
The Pope's attitude towards homosexuality has won him plaudits and earned him a place on the cover of 'The Advocate', a gay news magazine.
Conservative Catholics, particularly in the United States, have been alarmed by some of his comments, but Archbishop Dolan played down the idea of any backlash by traditionalists.
"I haven't sensed too much bristling among the conservatives," he said.
"They honestly will say, 'His style is a little different and might periodically cause us a little angst.'
"But in general they too seem to be rejoicing in what you might call the evangelical fervour, the good interest in the life of the church." (©Daily Telegraph, London)