Pope Francis has not changed the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality, contraception or abortion. What he has done is signal a change in priorities and a willingness to learn. He says that in every heart no matter how many thorns are growing, there is a place the good seed can grow… So, the first Catholic response to a gay person needs to be love, acknowledgement and a relationship between them, rather than judgement on their attractions.
It’s hard to do – we all love being judgemental on our own cause - but many of us would say far closer to the fierce love of the Gospels. and we can’t ignore things we believe to be hateful or destructive. But Francis opens up a different way of being Catholic which has always been there and traduced by the shouting from the top.
Libby Purves writes movingly in the Times (which due to the paywall, I cannot share with the world.) She speaks of how rules of behaviour and worship help as a framework but says the first duty is love. Pope Francis’ statements, she says, are Quaker in their simplicity.
I am reminded of the American evangelical, Philip Yancy, whose extraordinary book about grace shows a Gospel where accepting the other in love is the first principle… He mentions for example the evangelical church in the MidWest whose response to AIDS wasn’t (alas) to change their minds about gay sex but whose fundraising and advocacy for people with AIDS was so vigorous, there were gay atheists at the funeral when their pastor died.