Gene Robinson, recognized as the first openly gay bishop in a major Protestant denomination, has called on Pope Francis to change the Roman Catholic Church's official doctrine that defines homosexuality as a disorder, arguing that such a teaching is "the basis for discrimination, rejection and violence the world over."
The Vatican has repeatedly said that Pope Francis is not seeking to make doctrine changes, however.
"If Pope Francis is to be believed in all the kindly pronouncements of his first year (and I do), his good tone should be followed by the tough work of changing the systems of belief, doctrine and religious practice which perpetuate the victimization of those he seeks to serve," Robinson, who was installed as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church in 2004 and retired in 2013, wrote in an article for The Daily Beast on Sunday.
The retired bishop shared that he loves the new pope and that he prays for him every day, describing his commitment to the poor as "exemplary and legendary."
He also praised Francis for the change in tone he has brought to the Catholic Church in its attitude toward gay people, most famously with his remark to reporters last year: "If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?"
Robinson wrote, however, that the Vatican officially brands gay people as "intrinsically disordered." He argued that such judgment is "the basis for discrimination, rejection and violence the world over."
Adding that he realizes that such a big change in doctrine will not happen overnight, Robinson suggested that under Francis' leadership, the church body "may have the best chance at giving it a serious try."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states about homosexual attraction:
"This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. "
Pope Francis and Vatican officials have repeatedly affirmed traditional marriage, even in talk that the church body might look into certain cases of civil unions.
"Matrimony is between a man and a woman," the pope said in a recent interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, while adding that "diverse situations of cohabitation [are] driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care."
Media reports on Pope Francis' stance on LGBT issues have sometimes been criticized, and what is often not quoted is his explanation after the "Who am I to judge?" line:
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn't this (homosexual) orientation – we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby," the Vatican leader said.