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On Monday, Roman Catholic Cardinals will meet to organize the election of a successor to Pope Benedict the 16th. Some U.S. Catholics see the upcoming transition as an opportunity for the church to make some changes, especially when it comes to matters of sexual orientation and the roles of women. Jeff Tyson reports.
On Sunday evenings, Saint John’s in the Village Episcopal Church on West 11th Street becomes a house of worship… for Roman Catholics.
(Church music fades up)
These worshipers are Lesbian, Gay, bi-sexual, and transgender Catholics who say they can’t
find the support they need at their own churches. They are members of an organization called
Dignity that helps LGBT Catholics express their sexual orientation and their religious beliefs. Jim
Supp is a member of the group. He feels that if the Catholic Church is going to move forward on
gay issues, it has to first look backward to a progressive Pope of the 1950s and 60s.
SUPP: One always lives in hope, and I believe if we have another Pope like John XXIII, then we will have
some changes in policies relating to all sexual ethics in the Roman Catholic Church. [12 sec]
But Church scholars say that isn’t going to happen.
HORNBECK: I think it’s important for folks interested in LGBT equality not to get their hopes up. [4 sec]
Fordham University Professor of Theology Patrick Hornbeck says that’s because all but one
of the Cardinals who will be voting for the new pope were appointed by either John Paul II, or
Benedict XVI, both of whom held conservative stances on church policy. But Hornbeck says that
while the hierarchy has become more conservative, the Catholic laity has moved in the opposite
HORNBECK: One of the most fascinating things about Catholics in the United States, is that of all the different
Christian denominations, Catholics are already more favorable toward LGBT concerns than any other
Christian group in the US. [11 sec]
Some members of the LGBT Catholic group Dignity would also like the Church to take a more
favorable view of gay members of the clergy. They make up between 20 and 50 percent of the
clergy according to Alexander Stille, a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of
Journalism who has reported on Vatican and Papal affairs. Yet Stille believes that even with those
numbers, the Catholic Church isn’t likely to change.
STILLE: The effect of changing policies within the gay community would probably result in major battles and
divisions within the church. [11 sec]
Reform minded Catholics also hope a new pope might address the Church’s prohibition
against ordaining women as priests. Fordham Professor Patrick Hornbeck says that has been a
hot topic among priests and bishops.
HORNBECK: Over the last five, six, seven years in particular, a number of Catholics, very prominent Catholics,
have questioned the church’s position on the ordination of women in very significant ways. [9 sec]
Hornbeck says they were fired from their positions.
HORNBECK: So certainly there is a lot of pressure not to talk about this. [4 sec]
There is one significant change that Hornbeck believes the church might make in the near
future, and that is to allow straight priests to get married.
HORNBECK: Unlike the ordination of women, the Catholic Church has never said this is an absolute no no. [4 sec]
Hornbeck says that celibacy is simply designed to help priests dedicate their whole lives to
HORNBECK:But in the history of Christianity it has been very clear that there have been married priests and I
think its much more likely that Catholicism will go in that direction than go in the direction of a female
priesthood. [9 sec]
Vatican officials hope the cardinals choose a new pope by Easter, which falls at the end of
Jeff Tyson, Columbia Radio News