Chicago's archbishop is weighing on comments made by Pope Francis, which many believe hinted at a more pro-gay stance than the Catholic Church has previously taken.
Cardinal Francis George, long the ire of LGBT rights activists, released a statement on the archdiocese website, noting the church's stance on LGBT issues.
"Pope Francis, on his way back to Rome from the World Youth Day celebration in Rio, reaffirmed the teaching of the Catholic faith and other religions that homosexual genital relations are morally wrong," George wrote. "The Pope also reaffirmed the Church's teaching that every man and woman should be accepted with love, including those with same sex orientation."
The statement goes on to mention the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach (AGLO), which hosts weekly mass for LGBT people at Our Lady of Mount Caramel Church in Lakeview as well as Courage, a ministry for "persons with same-sex attractions and their loved ones," according to its website.
"Both ministries make available the sacraments of the Church for those who want to live chastely as followers of Christ in the Church," George wrote. "Judgments about individual guilt are settled in the sacrament of reconciliation, according to Catholic pastoral practice."
Joe Murray, executive director of LGBT Catholic organization Rainbow Sash Movement, said that the pope's recent comments are cause for optimism for LGBT Catholics. But he feels that George's response betrays the inclusive spirit of the pope's comments.
"I believe that the pope's statement focuses on inclusive over exclusion," Murray said. But when it comes to George's response, he added, "these two ministries [AGLO and Courage] are about judgment."
Among other things, some LGBT activists have taken exception to the archdiocese's stance that LGBT people should remain celibate. AGLO maintains in its mission statement that it aims to "provide an accepting and affirming atmosphere in which to worship in the Catholic tradition."
Murray has long sparred with both the Cardinal and AGLO. In June, George denied Murray communion at the AGLO 25th Anniversary mass after Murray attended wearing a rainbow sash. Murray physically turned his back on George during services.
George has similarly clashed with other LGBT activists, most recently over the issue of same-sex marriage. In 2011, George said that the Chicago Pride Parade was at risk of looking like a Ku Klux Klan rally, protesting against Catholicism. He later apologized, but he continues to be seen as a major foe of marriage equality.