​The Francis Effect

"I would fall into that category of a 'Cafeteria Catholic,'" she told Teichner. "I have several friends who are gay, and I will likely attend their gay marriages someday."

Place is in the choir that will sing for Francis during his outdoor mass in Philadelphia next Sunday. It concludes the World Meeting of Families, the conference which prompted his visit to the United States.

LGBT families have been all but shut out of the event.

On the thorny issue of gays in the church, the pope's "Who am I to judge?" comment was a shift in tone..

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"Slight changes in rhetoric seem like monumental changes, in terms of what the Catholic Church is espousing," said gay lawyer Matthew Putorti. For him and his parents, Cheryl and Francis, a change in rhetoric is good, but not good enough.

"They say everyone's welcome to church, whether you're gay, you're straight," said Francis Putori. "But if you're gay you cannot be a full Catholic, because you cannot get married."

The Putortis appear on a video [called "Owning Our Faith"], pleading acceptance for LGBT Catholics, that was hand-delivered to Pope Francis:

Francis Putorti: "If he said to me, 'Dad, I have to leave the Catholic Church because they don't accept me, I would say, 'Matthew, I understand completely.'"

"Right now, I haven't made a decision, so I'm not going to leave during the struggle," said Matthew. "That's what faith is. Faith is that hope for something better."

But as for the rest of the pope's goals? Father Thomas Reese believes there's a very good chance that Pope Francis will permit priests to marry. But he also says allowing women to be priests is not on the pope's reform agenda.

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What is? Making the church seem a more tolerant place. The question is whether this kinder, gentler "Francis Effect" is actually trickling down and putting Catholics back in the pews.

"I've talked to people who have been excited by Francis, and decided, OK, I'm going to give it another chance. And they went back to their parish and the heard the same ol', same ol'," said Father Reese. "And they turned around and walked out the door, and they're never coming back. There can be no 'Francis Effect' unless we all get on board with his agenda and his priorities and his style and his spirituality."

Americans seem to like his style very much. Millions of people -- Catholic and non-Catholic -- are expected to gather, to be near him.

The "Francis Effect" -- they just want to feel it.

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