Pope Francis Writes Letter to Gay Catholic Group

The saga of Pope Francis attempting to win over the gays continues, and once again, it’s quiet, underwhelming, and almost certainly a PR stunt.

The Italian Catholic LGBT group Kairos of Florence wrote a letter to the Pope in June, undoubtedly addressing many of the well-known issues that put the Catholic Church at odds with the LGBT community. They reportedly asked for “openness and dialogue” in talking about this rift and stated that a lack of openness “always feeds homophobia.” Hear, hear.

Now, months later, the Pope has written them back, according to enthusiastic reports out of the Catholic news world. Unfortunately, though, it’s hard to tell if this is anything significant (spoiler: it probably isn’t) because Kairos has chosen to keep the contents of both letters private.

Here’s what they did reveal:

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Undercover Journalist Joins (and Exposes) Toronto Program That Claims to Turn Gay People Straight

While the Christian-led ex-gay movement is dying down in the United States, some “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy” programs are still alive and well in other parts of the world. In Canada, for example, a government-registered charity called Living Waters (not affiliated with Ray Comfort‘s ministry of the same name) has chapters across the country to help gay people overcome their same-sex attractions.

Hearing of the program, an undercover reporter named Graham Slaughter from the Toronto Star joined a Living Waters chapter from January to May and recently published his account of the experience. In reality Slaughter is openly gay — contentedly so, it seems — making his description of the Christian program all the more interesting (and terrifying).

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Bill Maher: Atheism is ‘the New Gay Marriage’

Why won’t comedian Bill Maher be running for Congress anytime soon?

Because he thinks his atheism will get in the way.

In an interview with Hollywood site TheWrap, Maher chatted with host Sharon Waxman about the lack of representation of atheists in politics — and how it doesn’t quite match up with the rising number of atheists in the country. He told her that while the percentage of atheists in America is approaching 15%, “we have zero representation.” As a person who’s pretty public about his atheism, he should know:

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Pope Francis Excommunicates Priest for Supporting Women, LGBT People

All this talk of a progressive new Pope may have been jumping the gun.

Writing for the National Catholic Reporter, Brian Roewe reported this week that Pope Francis has excommunicated an Australian priest from the Church for his liberal values and activism. Fr. Greg Reynolds publicly supports LGBT rights, marriage equality and women’s ordination, three big no-nos in Catholic tradition. (We reported on Reynolds’ dismissal from the church the other day, but at the time, Pope Francis’ role wasn’t exactly clear.)

Here’s the Vatican’s “explanation” behind its decision, according to NCR:

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Catholic College Cancels Pro-Marriage Equality Lecture Because It’s ‘Fundamentally Immoral’

In a story broken by Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times, a highly-anticipated lecture by a gay speaker at a Roman Catholic college was suddenly canceled this weekend because it doesn’t align with the school’s “fundamental moral principles.”

Dr. John Corvino, chairman of the philosophy department at Wayne State University, has spoken on same-sex marriage at more than 10 Catholic colleges in the country and is a frequent commentator on LGBT issues in religious contexts. He was scheduled to speak at Providence College in Rhode Island this Thursday, an event co-sponsored by nine school departments and programs.

But on Saturday, the college’s provost, Hugh F. Lena, announced that the talk was canceled because “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”

In his e-mail announcing the cancellation, Hugh F. Lena, the provost and senior vice president of Providence College, cited a document produced by the American bishops in 2004, “Catholics in Political Life,” to support the decision. And he said that college policy “dictates that that both sides of a controversial issue are to be presented fairly and equally.”

Presenting both sides fairly and equally, eh? That’s not what this explanation seems to say. A portion of the cancellation announcement reads:

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