“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
After Pope Francis held an 80-minute conference with journalists on his return flight from Brazil on Monday, this quote made headlines around the world, with everyone scrambling to unravel what it means for the Catholic Church.
The Washington Post called Francis’ comment signals “that the church looks on [gay people] as sisters and brothers.” The New York Times called the pope's comment "revolutionary." Time Magazine called it a “baby step,” a change in tone but not necessarily a change in the church’s stance on homosexuality.
After all, his comment referred to gay priests who remain celibate.
Still, Jason Berry wrote on Tuesday, this does represent a shift from Pope Benedict XVI, who in 1986, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, wrote a letter to the world’s bishops that stated, “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”
What Francis’ comment will ultimately mean for the direction of the Catholic Church is a “long conversation about the theology of human sexuality,” Berry explained in a Skype interview on Thursday. “We’re on a journey with this pope, and I think it’s going to be a rather fascinating one.”