July 29th, 2013
06:39 PM ET
Opinion by the Rev. Gary M. Meier, Special to CNN
(CNN) - The question of today has been: What's my reaction to the pope’s statement regarding not judging gay priests?
The answer: Cautiously optimistic.
Optimistic because today’s statement comes after years of anti-gay rhetoric from the Catholic Church. In so many ways it is a breath of fresh air.
Someone from the church hierarchy has finally said something about homosexuality that isn’t hostile, harmful, and anti-gay – and it was the pope!
Maybe now we can begin to have a conversation about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, a teaching that I believe has caused harm to the LGBT community.
In my book, "Hidden Voices, Reflections of a Gay Catholic Priest,” I outlined some of the harm our teaching has caused especially to our youth; and especially when 30% of all successful teenage suicides are attributed to sexual identity issues.
At the very least, perhaps now others will follow Pope Francis' lead and be a little less judgmental themselves. If the only good that comes out of the pope’s statement is for others to stop judging, that would be a great place to start.
For years, members of the LGBT community have been judged and told that they are disordered; that they have a disease like alcoholism; that they are defective in some way; that they are wrong when they should be right, that they are unfit and unworthy of ordination.
But now, our Pope seems to be opening the door for what I hope will lead to a conversation about homosexuality in our church.
LGBT Catholics who have come to the church looking for love and acceptance have instead found an atmosphere of silence and shame.
And it’s not just the gay population who suffers, it is all those who have accepted a member of their family and all of those who have allied as friends. They too have been silenced and shamed, ostracized by a church teaching and hierarchal positioning that will not allow us to support, love, nurture and foster positive gay relationships in our church.
I am optimistic that our pope’s comments can lead to greater love and acceptance of the LGBT community. And at the same time, I am cautious – cautious that the change in tone and attitude represented by the pope’s statement will not lead to a change in theology and doctrine which so desperately needs to change.
My prayer for the church is that we might take this opportunity to stop causing harm, to stop being judgmental and to become more welcoming, more inviting, more loving towards all people - especially those who are marginalized and ostracized.
At a recent book signing, I was approached by a middle-aged woman who identified herself as a straight Lutheran. Her comment has stayed with me since.
She said, “This is exactly how our church changed our teaching on homosexuality. It took our ministers and church leaders to come out publicly before change could happen.”
Will the pope’s statement lead the way for more priests to come out and end the silence? I hope so.
St. Catherine of Sienna once said: “Speak the truth with a thousand voices – it is silence that kills the world.”
I say it’s time to end the silence and speak the truth with a thousand voices.
The Rev. Gary M. Meier is author of “Hidden Voices, Reflections of a Gay Catholic Priest." The views expressed in this column belong to Meier alone.
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