Gay marriage continues to demand attention of Pope Francis

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Friday, August 21, 2015
VIDEO: Gay rights and the Catholic faith
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Jim Gardner is in Pope Francis' hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina where he is exploring the intricacies of gay rights and the Catholic faith.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (WPVI) -- The issues of homosexuality, gay marriage, and gay priests are demanding the attention of Pope Francis as he prepares to come to Philadelphia. It is no less an urgent issue in his hometown of Buenos Aires.

Argentina is about 80 percent Catholic with an active gay community.

Silvina Rojas and Karina Duranti were the first couple from Buenos Aires province married under the country's gay marriage law when it was signed in 2010. But they and their two daughters are not recognized as a family by the church.

Rojas says, "We want the blessing of God that we're recognized as a family."

Pope Francis today is seen as wanting the church to be more welcome to gay people, but as Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio in 2010, he waged a bitter and ultimately losing fight against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who wanted Argentina to be the first Latin American country to legalize gay marriage.

The National Congress building in Buenos Aires was the scene of many protests.

Bergoglio called the gay marriage legislation, "A destructive attack on God's plan." He said, "At stake is the identity and survival of the family."

Karina Duranti says the pope's attitude has absolutely changed, that he's become more thoughtful and more respectful of gay people.

It was on the papal plane in 2013 when he told reporters that gay people shouldn't be marginalized, and should be integrated into society. And then he uttered the most repeated words of his papacy: "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord, and has good will, who am I to judge?"

Those words electrified the Catholic gay community in the United States, and prompted some to wonder if this pope will move to sanction gay marriage.

It's unlikely.

Pope Francis has also said this: "I am a son of the church, gay marriage is not on the agenda."

Andres Gioeni quit the priesthood when he realized he was gay. He says, "Francis should act on what he really believes, to allow gay marriage, but he won't because it would turn the church into an ideological battlefield."

Back in the Delaware Valley, the firing of gay teacher Margie Winters from Waldron Mercy Academy has caused cries of protest and despair.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput supports the firing, saying there's nothing complicated or controversial about it.

It's tempting to wonder how Pope Francis would react. Of course, no one should or would presume to know, and five words make it especially difficult to rush to a conclusion: "Who am I to judge."

LGBT groups have been seeking a meeting with the pope while he's in the United States. An organizer told the New York Times, "Gay Catholics want him to acknowledge their rejection by the church, and to welcome them as full members with equal access to sacraments, like baptism and marriage."

For the pope and the Vatican, this is an issue that won't go away.