A day after Pope Francis made waves by commenting positively on gay Catholics, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on Tuesday acknowledged the church's troubles reaching out to the LGBT community.
“Of course the church must be a place of welcome for people who experience same-sex attraction,” Cordileone said in a statement. “No one has ever denied this, but we need to do a better job at making this known and following through on it.”
That came on the heels of Pope Francis' candid interview with reporters aboard the papal airplane leaving Brazil.
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” the pope said.
Could the pope's words have inspired a possible shift in Cordileone? The archbishop's office did not return requests for comment Tuesday on how the church might become more welcoming to the LGBT community.
But Cordileone has taken strong stances against gay rights in the past. He was a major supporter of Proposition 8, California's gay marriage ban, holding rallies and raising more than $1.5 million to put the measure on the ballot in 2008.
At least one Catholic LGBT leader is skeptical of any shift in Cordileone.
Marianne Duddy-Burke is the executive director of DignityUSA, a national advocacy group for gay rights in the Catholic Church that has a San Francisco chapter. She said Cordileone is one of the most outspoken church officials against gay rights.
“I would ask him how he would take that sense of his statement that the church should be welcoming and not support discrimination with the fact that he just signed a letter to a committee of the [U.S. Senate] against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013,” she said. That legislation would protect LGBT workers nationwide against being fired for their sexual identity.
Though some states protect against such discrimination, 38 states do not, Duddy-Burke said.
The letter to the Senate committee said Cordileone and the two other Catholic leaders who signed it had reservations about the act but do not support any forms of discrimination.
“We cannot support a bill, like ENDA, that would legally affirm and specially protect any sexual conduct outside of marriage,” the letter said.
The act passed the committee.
Duddy-Burke acknowledged that while Catholic leaders such as Cordileone may not be pushing the pope's sentiment as strongly as she would like, it's still progress. When Duddy-Burke was in college in the 1970s, she said discrimination toward out Catholics was forceful.
“When I was in college and a president of a Catholic group on campus, I was out as a lesbian and word I was gay got to the priest chaplain,” Duddy-Burke said. “He responded, 'We can't have someone like you representing Catholics on campus.'”
She was separated from the church for years.
But, she said, the pope's comments have sparked enthusiasm nationwide: “There have been folks being much more hopeful about their place in the church than in a very long time.”