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September 19th, 2013
06:19 PM ET

Bishop: Pope Francis' views on gays, contraception are 'slight departure' from predecessors

Pope Francis gave a candid interview Thursday, where he talked about being more open to gays and lesbians, and embracing prominent roles for women in the church.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that," Pope Francis told Catholic news service "America." "It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."

"I think it is a slight departure," said Bishop David O'Connell of Trenton, New Jersey, and former president of Catholic University of America.

But Pope John Paul II rejected the use of condoms to control the spread of AIDs. Pope Francis' views appear to be more than just a slight departure.

"This was an interview. This was not an instant of papal pronouncement or teaching," said O'Connell. "This pope is accustomed to speak off the cuff, and to speak in a very common way with people, and I think that's what you saw in this interview."

"He really was just sharing some of his thoughts and reflections," said O'Connell.

The bishop said the pope was trying to broaden the media's view of the Catholic Church.

"The pope constantly talks about forgiveness and concern for the poor, about mercy. I think what he's trying to do is say, 'Hey, folks, the church has a lot more to offer than just stringent Catholic teaching on certain subjects," said O'Connell.

Pope Francis said in the interview that someone asked him if he approves of homosexuality. He said, "I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person."

Many would interpret that response as the pope reaching out to the gay community.

"I think what the pope is talking about really is a fundamental love and respect for people of all kinds, all persuasions, all races, all orientations, that we really are obliged to love everyone," said O'Connell. "That's what the Lord Jesus has asked us to do. I think the Holy Father wants to emphasize that."

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