What Is Pope Francis Saying to Gays?

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - OCTOBER 18:  Pope Francis attends the Synod on the themes of family at the Synod Hall on October 18,
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - OCTOBER 18: Pope Francis attends the Synod on the themes of family at the Synod Hall on October 18, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. During the last day of the Synod Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops conference, noted that in Germany many committed Catholics are asking how the Church can be more inclusive of those who are divorced and remarried or living in homosexual relationships. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

As a gay man and a gay Episcopal priest, I am extremely confused by the Vatican right now when it comes to the entire gay question. Am I loved by anyone there? By whom? What's going on in the sacred halls when it comes to gay identity, gay rights, gay existence -- maybe the whole question of who I am as a gay person?

I knew something was going on when Pope Benedict vanished. He had never been remotely a civil rights leader for gay people. Yet he was nominally a spiritual leader for millions of people. Did he have in the recesses of his mind any kind of "solution" to the gay question?

Pope Benedict abruptly disappeared. Pope Francis appeared, a new star in the global pantheon. A nice enough guy, as images go. Yet as a gay man, I couldn't really know what to expect. Yes, I hoped for a new face, a new mind, a new soul. Would I ever feel he understood me at all? Wanted me to have full civil rights? Did he feel I was sexually and morally a sinner? If so, was I somehow a threat to what he stood for?

He seemed humble. He chose the name "Francis" after a globally loved person everybody has adored for ages. Pope Francis got deeply involved. Speaking to the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious, he referred to something he apparently called the "gay lobby." Quickly the news-hungry Roman media grabbed the new term.

Then it got complicated -- mercy, yes. A Vatican historian said, "This is a question of blackmail and blackmailability, not homosexuality." Will you repeat that, and can we get a close-up?

What is going on here? Are we talking about homosexuality?

Allow me a couple of comments here. I've been gay all my life. I lived through the absolute hell of persecution in the 1940s and 1950s when gay life was not chic, gay bars were raided (I know, I was in some at the time). Gay people like me were supposed to be our dirty selves in private, but never inflict our reality on anyone else. This wasn't exactly the cheeriest of times, to say the least.

In my own case, the worst time was after I came out. Not to applause. Not to beaming faces. Not to job opportunities. I came out to enormous controversy. I wasn't moving rapidly into "happiness and peace." Fortunately, I was strong. I had close friends who were extraordinarily strong and supportive. I made it. My life partner and I have been together for more than 30 years.

I am not asking for a world of gay people. However, I earnestly yearn for a world that allows me honest identity, spares me persecution, and blesses the emergence of hope in our corporate life. Our wedding movingly brought new friends together.

Is this asking too much? Pope Francis, are you on board? You certainly seemed to be when, for example, you knelt to wash the feet of prison inmates, including Muslims.

I'd like to spend a reflective evening with you, send out for a pizza from a great place near the Vatican, open a bottle of Chianti, put our feet up, relax, and share thoughts and aspirations.

It would be great to know you.