ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- A change in the Catholic thinking? Maybe not yet, but some say it is a change in tone.
Pope Francis told reporters that he won't judge priests for being gay.
Just eight years ago Pope Benedict said that men with homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Now, one priest right here in St. Louis, who recently opened up about being gay, says the comment is at least encouraging.
Fr. Gary Meier has been on a leave of absence from the Archdiocese of St. Louis since June of 2012. He says it's interesting what Pope Francis said, but it's also interesting what the Pope didn't say.
He says he is one of only four openly gay priests in the world.
"I could not in conscious represent any longer in silence, I just couldn't do it," he explained.
Recently, Fr. Gary put his name on a book he wrote, originally published anonymously. "Hidden Voices, Reflections of a Gay Catholic Priest" is, in a way, his own confessional. He says the Pope talking about gay priests may be a reversal in tone, but not in teaching.
"The pope has not said that gay marriage is acceptable, that homosexuals can live and love in relationships he didn't say a lot of things, all he said was who am I to judge," said Fr. Gary.
The pope told reporters, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"
Fr. Gary hopes that maybe this will be a conversation starter for the Catholic priesthood and homosexuals.
He is now counseling others that are or have been in his shoes. As for the leave of absence, he doesn't know how long it will be or if he would be accepted back in to the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
"The door is more open today that it was yesterday," he said. "Is it a turning point? I don't know who knows where any of this is going to lead."
In response the Archdiocese of St. Louis said:
"The Archdiocese of St. Louis supports the remarks by Pope Francis which reiterate church teaching that homosexuals are welcome in the church but homosexual activity is forbidden. The Catholic Church teaches that all people are called to responsibility when it comes to sexuality, whether homosexual or heterosexual, priest or lay person. She believes that all sexual activity belongs within a marriage between a man and a woman.
"The Catholic Church does not condemn people for having same-sex attraction. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states quite clearly that homosexual persons 'must be accepted with compassion, respect and sensitivity.' The Catechism adds that 'Every sign of unjust discrimination must be avoided.'
"While the Catholic Church objects to homosexual activity, she does not object to homosexuals."