Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York recently said that the Roman Catholic Church has not done a good enough job when it comes to making sure that gay people are accepted, while still affirming the traditional definition of marriage.
In an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos over Easter, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spoke about a wide range of topics, including how pleased he was with the appointment last month of Pope Francis, but also addressed the sensitive gay marriage issue America and many places around the world are facing today.
Stephanopoulos posed the question: "What do you say, as a minister, as a pastor, to a gay couple that comes to you and says, 'We love God. We love the Church. But we also love each other, and we want to raise a family in faith.' What do you say to them?"
Dolan, who has often stood behind conservative principles, replied:
"Well, the first thing I'd say to them is, 'I love you, too. And God loves you and you are made in God's image and likeness. And we want your happiness ... and you're entitled to friendship.'
Dolan added that God's intention for sexual intimacy extended only to married men and women who can produce children naturally. He clarified, however, that defending that notion should not come at the expense of making gay people feel unwelcomed.
"We gotta be, we gotta do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people. And I admit, we haven't been too good at that. We try our darndest to make sure we're not an anti-anybody," said the cardinal, who is the most senior Catholic cleric in America.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard two major cases related to same-sex marriage, the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8. The justices' ruling in June has the power to produce sweeping changes across the country. Currently, nine U.S. states, and the District of Columbia, have legalized gay marriage.
In his interview with ABC, Dolan admitted that figuring out how to better minister to gay people is a difficult question, but insisted that the important thing to remember is that Jesus Christ's sacrifice extended to everyone.
"I don't know. We're still trying. We're trying our best to do it. We've got to listen to people," Dolan said. "Jesus died on the cross for them as much as he did for me."