A prominent Catholic writer priest has challenged his church "to love gays and lesbians more deeply."
The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit editor at America, a Catholic magazine, underlines the problem with the "love the sinner, hate the sin" formula he says many Christians use to guide their beliefs around homosexuality.
His piece entitled, Simply loving, comes at a time that the Vatican is said to be considering relaxing its stance on same-sex civil partnerships and when Pope Francis has urged more tolerance toward gay people.
Father Martin says it is well-known that that same-gender marriage and homosexual acts are contrary to Catholic moral teaching.
"Yet that same teaching also says that gay and lesbian people must be treated with 'respect, sensitivity and compassion.'"
He writes, "The language of 'hate the sin, love the sinner' is difficult for many gay people to believe when the tepid expression of love is accompanied by strident condemnation.
"And the notion that love calls first for admonishing the loved person seems to be applied only in the case of gays and lesbians."
Martin is the author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage and he has concrete suggestions for how the Church might act more loving toward people who prefer same sex partners.
"First, it would mean listening to their experiences - all their experiences, what their lives are like as a whole.
"Second, it would mean valuing their contributions to the church. Where would our church be without gays and lesbians - as music ministers, pastoral ministers, teachers, clergy and religious, hospital chaplains and directors of religious education? Infinitely poorer.
"Finally, it would mean publicly acknowledging their individual contributions: that is, saying that a particular gay Catholic has made a difference in our parish, our school, our diocese.
"This would help remind people that they are an important part of the body of Christ. Love means listening and respecting, but before that it means admitting that the person exists," writes Martin.