Pope Francis has largely been viewed as a people’s pontiff. He has shown a willingness to address sometimes thorny issues in the Catholic community and to be more inclusive.
Despite the stunning language of the document, experts say it’s unlikely to change the church doctrine,
But it does mirror a general trend in the overall population that is more accepting of gay unions and homosexuality.
A new survey of religious congregations, “Changing American Congregations,” found that more churches are opening their doors to gay and lesbian couples, according to the Pew Research Center website.
Conducted by researchers from Duke University and the University of Chicago, the study surveyed clergy and members from more than 1,300 congregations.
Between 2006 and 2012, the percentage of congregations allowing an openly gay or lesbian couple to become full-fledged members grew to 48 percent from 37 percent, according to the survey.
Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, an advocacy group that promotes the rights of members in the LGBT community, knows first-hand how the church’s stance on homosexuality can play out in a family.
Although he is not Catholic, some of his in-laws are.
“It’s been a struggle within my own family about how to love and respect each other and at the same time (for my Catholic relatives) how they can uphold the tenets of their faith,” he said.
When he and his husband announced they were going to get married there were some “challenges” among some of his future in-laws who are “very observant Catholics who love my husband and myself very much.”
This latest move could make the road easier for others.
“This new direction and new tone really is welcome,” he said. “I hope the dialogue can remain open.”
That sentiment was echoed by others.
“I think it’s awesome that they’re finally at a point where they realize that gay people are just like everybody else and do have many gifts to offer, which is something we’ve known for a long, long, long time,” said Kevin L. Clark, former chairman of the First City Network, one of the oldest LGBT service organizations in the state.