The following comes from a July 29 story in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Comments made by Pope Francis in his first press conference were widely regarded as conciliatory toward gays. But Bishop Robert Vasa of the Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese said Monday that the Pope’s words were in line with existing Catholic teachings, which call for compassion for gays, reject discrimination but consider homosexuality a disorder.

While en route back from a trip to Brazil, Pope Francis engaged in a candid, 82-minute press conference with reporters aboard the papal aircraft. The pope responded to a number of questions, ranging from gay priests to the role of women in the church to financial scandals involving the Vatican bank.

“If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?” the pope said. “They shouldn’t be marginalized.”

But Bishop Vasa said these comments were anything but “groundbreaking” and echoed certain paragraphs from the catechism of the Catholic Church.

“I don’t know that I would see them as any more conciliatory than the church documents have always been,” he said.

Paragraph 2358 of the catechism recognizes that the number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is “not negligible,” and that homosexuality, as a disorder constitutes for most of them a trial.

But the same paragraph also points out that gays should not be discriminated against and “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

In several news reports, Pope Francis’ statements Monday were contrasted with former Pope Benedict XVI’s signing of a document in 2005 that said men with gay tendencies should not be allowed to become priests.

Bishop Vasa said the pope made no statements contradicting his predecessor.

“I don’t know that those are necessarily two different statements,” he said….

Bishop Vasa said the candid nature of the pope’s press conference, where the pontiff was not afraid to answer questions, was a reflection of the church’s new leader.

“He is his own man. He is not afraid to engage with discussion of matters in secular society that may be controversial,” Vasa said.

“But at the same time, he holds true to the clear teachings of the church. Nothing in what he said suggested acceptance of gay priests or otherwise engaging in homosexual acts.”

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