Pope reaches out to gay community surprising many in Binghamton

By Matt Porter

September 20, 2013 Updated Sep 21, 2013 at 12:38 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Six months into Pope Francis' papacy, he has people talking all over the world, including right here in Binghamton.

The pope called his church obsessed over condemning gay rights, abortion and contraception, while forgetting the church's primary mission of mercy and love.

Alex Loughman, who is gay and a former Catholic, said he appreciates the new pope who has preached for more acceptance of people in the gay community.

"I'm liking him more and more," Loughman said. "I feel like the Catholic Church has chased away a lot of people because they have had a history of being kind of exclusive."

Loughman was raised Catholic and went to church every Sunday.

But as a gay man, he felt left out and left the church.

"It's a lot more of a positive vibe coming out of the church now than there had been in the past, which is fantastic," Loughman said.

The pope still accepts Catholic doctrine condemning homosexual acts, abortion and contraception, but he said the church's focus needs to be on more acceptance and love of all people.

Gay or straight, Catholic or not, the pope said all have a chance at finding God's love.

Earlene Moody, of Binghamton, said the pope's humanity is seen by this decision.

"Thank God for what we have. Everybody don't have the same amount, but we all need to think equally. We all bleed the same blood. We all are here and we all love God," Moody said. "Just give respect to God and he'll give respect back."

Joan Gasper, who attends Saint Mary's of Assumption Church in Binghamton, said Jesus was an apostle to the outcasts as well as believers.

"He didn't hang with the rich people," Gasper said. "He hanged with the poor, the downtrodden, the people no one wanted him to hang with, and that's why he got killed."

With the pope pushing for a wider "Catholic tent," Angelo Chapolo of Binghamton hopes it will help repair damage that has shaken the Catholic Church's foundation.

"I hope it will bring the whole church back together again," Chapolo said. "They had that split there for a while, with things going on with priests and everything."

Loughman said he doesn't think the changes will bring him back to church.

But, if he did go back, he thinks the pope's message has changed how it would feel.

"Now I actually feel I can go there and be welcomed in church," he said.

A new papacy for a new era is something for which he said he can only hope.