Pope Francis once again made headlines this week when he asked, "Who am I to judge a gay person?" That's not because the Roman Catholic Church is changing its official stance on homosexuality, writes philosophy professor John Corvino in the New York Times, but it is changing its tone—"and tone matters." Why? "Because it signals that the Vatican might stop scapegoating gays for its problems of personnel and governance," he writes, and "it matters to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth, especially those raised Catholic, who grow up thinking that their desires are not just a sin but a perversion, a moral stain of the highest order."
The pope is not the only one who has softened his tone on this issue, notes Corvino: US Cardinal Timothy Dolan has made similar remarks, saying the church must "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." This, he says, is both "simple human decency" and "good politics," given the majority of American Catholics support marriage rights for same-sex couples. Yes, "Love the sinner, hate the sin," is an old adage, Corvino writes, but by adopting a tone of humility and referring to homosexuals as "our brothers," he "brings the 'love' part of 'love the sinner' front and center." Click for Corvino's full column. (Read more John Corvino stories.)