LONDON - Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that the Roman Catholic Church should change its position on homosexuality to better reflect today's society.
Blair, who became a Catholic shortly after leaving office, said in an interview with the gay magazine Attitude, "Organized religions face the same dilemma as political parties when faced with changed circumstances."
"You can either A: Hold on to your core vote, basically, you know, say 'Look let's not break out because if we break out we might lose what we've got, and at least we've got what we've got so let's keep it'. Or B: You say 'let's accept that the world is changing, and let us work out how we can lead that change and actually reach out'."
Blair also claimed that the position of the Church, which holds to traditional biblical teaching on marriage and family life, is not shared by many Catholics on the ground.
"There are many good and great things the Catholic Church does, and there are many fantastic things this Pope stands for, but I think what is interesting is that if you went into any Catholic Church, particularly a well attended one, on any Sunday here and did a poll of the congregation, you'd be surprised at how liberal-minded people were."
He added, "When people quote the passages in Leviticus condemning homosexuality, I say to them - if you read the whole of the Old Testament and took everything that was there in a literal way, as being what God and religion is about, you'd have some pretty tough policies across the whole of the piece."
Last year Pope Benedict XVI said that saving mankind from homosexual and transsexual behavior was as important as saving the rainforests. He also said that the Catholic Church needed to "protect man from the destruction of himself."
During his time as Prime Minister, Blair found himself at odds with the Church on the Iraq war as well as on moral issues. He was criticized for introducing civil partnerships for gay people, lowering the age of consent for homosexuals to be the same as heterosexuals and refusing to allow Catholic adoption agencies an exemption to laws requiring them to allow homosexuals to adopt.
Blair was also criticized for voting in favor of abortion and Sunday trading, both of which go against Catholic teaching.
At the time of his conversion Ann Widdecombe, a Conservative MP who also converted to Catholicism said, "Well I think the crucial thing to remember is at the point you are received (into the Catholic church) you have to say individually and out loud 'I believe everything the church teaches to be revealed truth.'"
"And that means if you previously had any problems with church teaching, as Tony Blair obviously did over abortion, as he did again over Sunday trading...you would have to say you changed your mind."
"And I think people will want to know that he did go through that process, because otherwise it will seem as if the church did make an exception for somebody just because of who he is."