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SAN DIEGO, California, July 6, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy celebrated Pope Francis’ call for Christians to apologize to gays and suggested the Catholic Church consider changing how it refers to same-sex attraction and homosexual acts.

McElroy’s comments were published June 30 in an interview with the Jesuit magazine America.

“I think [the Pope’s call for an apology] opens up a very helpful pathway to dialogue and hopefully healing,” McElroy said. “What we need to project in the life of the church is ‘You are part of us and we are part of you.’ [LGBT Catholics] are part of our families.”

After the Orlando terrorist attack on a gay nightclub, McElroy called on Catholics to “combat” the “anti-gay prejudice that exists in our Catholic community and in our country.”

In the America interview, McElroy reiterated his assertion that such an animus exists among Catholics and blamed it on a lack of understanding of Church doctrine.

“My own view is that much of the destructive attitude of many Catholics to the gay and lesbian community is motivated by a failure to comprehend the totality of the church’s teaching on homosexuality,” he said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that those with same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” and “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC 2358).

The Catechism also teaches: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (CCC 2357).

In a poignant and heart-wrenching piece responding to the claim that the Church should apologize to homosexuals, actively gay man turned devout Catholic Joseph Sciambra wrote that the Church should apologize — to all of the people who have been deceived by unfaithful priests into believing the homosexual lifestyle is acceptable or healthy and for an ambiguous 1997 document from the U.S. bishops that failed to address the issue in a truly pastoral way.

“Dear Pope Francis: apologize for bad catechesis, for bad pastoral programs, for bad priests, and for the apathetic Bishops who do nothing to correct them,” Sciambra wrote. “As for the long dead who passed from this life, far too young, because no one ever bothered to tell them the Truth – no amount of apologizing will ever bring them back.”

McElroy told America that the Church should use “inclusive, embracing,” and “pastoral” language when referring to the same-sex attracted and sexual acts between people of the same sex.

Labeling homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered,” as the Catechism does, is “very destructive language that I think we should not use pastorally,” McElroy said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church never labels individuals “disordered.” It makes clear distinctions between a person (who is never “disordered”), his or her sexual attractions (which may be “intrinsically disordered” if they are contrary to natural law, but are not considered sinful in and of themselves), and his or her sexual acts (which may be “intrinsically disordered”). 

The Catechism also labels lust a “disordered desire,” masturbation “an intrinsically and gravely disordered action,” and rape an “intrinsically evil act” (CCC 2351 – 2352, CCC 2356).