Pope Francis on Monday overturned ages of vocal tradition by saying that he would not “judge” gay priests for their sexual orientation. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis said, according to media reports.

Of course, the pope’s remark does not immediately translate into higher regard for homosexuals by the Catholic Church in any practical way. The church has made life hell for gay men who do not fall within the ranks of the priesthood, defining their expressions of love, affection and physical desire for one another as sinful and disgusting. In the pope’s expressed view, the sexual nature of gay priests should still be regarded as wicked.

The pope’s comment came during an 80-minute news conference with reporters on a flight to Italy from Rio de Janeiro after his visit to Brazil for World Youth Day. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, who was much more restrictive with interviews, once wrote a Vatican document saying homosexual men should not become priests.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The New York Times:

Reporters on the plane said that the pope had been candid and high-spirited and did not dodge a single question, even thanking the person who asked about reports of a “gay lobby” inside the Vatican, and about Italian press reports that one of the advisers he had appointed to look into the Vatican Bank had been accused of having gay trysts.

Francis said he had investigated the reports and found them groundless. He added that while such a lobby would be an issue, he did not have anything against gays and that their sins should be forgiven, media reports said. He said that while homosexuals should be treated with dignity, using sexual orientation for blackmail or pressure was a different matter.

… Since he became pope in March, Francis has been known for his style of radical simplicity and directness, an approach that seemed to go over well on his first foreign trip. While Benedict’s 2007 visit to Brazil was subdued, Francis was greeted like a rock star by throngs of the faithful, and more than a million people — some reports said as many as three million — gathered for an open-air Mass on Copacabana Beach on Sunday.

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