Pope Francis made perhaps his most progressive statement so far: "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?"
The line came in response to a question about whether there was a gay lobby in the Vatican. Pope Francis is undoubtedly the most publicly progressive pontiff on the issue of gay rights in history. The Pope also said that he wanted a greater role for women in the Catholic Church, but that he still couldn’t support ordaining women as priests.
"We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity, there must be more.
"But with regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says no... That door is closed."
These two statements, taken together, create a stark juxtaposition: Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict, would have said the same thing about gay people as Francis still says about women: that the Church has leveled their judgment on the matter long ago, and that is final. The Catholic Church has been more than happy to judge homosexuals for centuries, so Francis’ saying that seeking God and having good will are what defines a Catholic, regardless of which gender they are attracted to, is a remarkable shift.
This is also a sign of the times, and of the still-accelerating gay rights movement, which has reached all the way to the Pope. His support for gay people further isolates the opponents of gay rights, who are still strong and politically powerful, but finding their numbers dwindling.