Pope in US: Gay and Conservative Catholics battle for Francis' attention

Gay Catholics in the US say they will not stage any protests but will welcome the Pope peacefully in an attempt to improve relations between the Catholic Church and the gay community.

There have been numerous LGBT-related controversies ahead of the Pope's visit to the US.Reuters

Gay Catholics considered the possibility of staging protests over their treatment by church leaders who have lobbied against same-sex marriage, but have instead opted for a more conciliatory approach. They will greet the Pope with rainbow flags, rainbow prayer cloths and rainbow rosary beads.

"We're not looking for a confrontation opportunity," said Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, head of Latino and Catholic initiatives at Human Rights Campaign.

"We're looking for dialogue that leads to the full inclusion of our people in the church."

The pontiff's visit to the United States comes months after a seminal moment for gay Americans, when the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal across all 50 states.

When asked about gay men serving in the clergy, Pope Francis famously said, "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?"

More recently he encouraged parents to be accepting of their gay and lesbian children.

However, although he has advocated for a more inclusive and welcoming church, Francis has hitherto reaffirmed traditional Catholic doctrine that homosexual acts were sinful, but homosexual orientation was not.

"They don't hear how their words are not only hurting the LGBT community, but also the LGBT community's families," said Nicholas Coppola, a gay Catholic who was removed from a lay ministerial position at his parish after he got married.

A recent study by Pew Research indicated that the Church's official position was out of step with most of its younger members. The survey found that 75 per cent of US Catholics, ages 18-29, are in favour of marriage for same-sex couples, though older Catholics are less supportive.

The LGBT lobby will no doubt be frustrated that Pope Francis' host when he arrives in Philadelphia on Saturday is Charles Chaput, the unofficial leader of conservative Catholicism in the US.

Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Charles Chaput receiving the sacred Palladium from Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter's basilica in the Vatican, June 29, 2012.Reuters

Archbishop Chabut prevented gay and lesbian groups from being involved in a summit on the family organised by the church in Philadelphia ahead of the Pope's visit.

He has argued that Catholic schools shouldn't hire partners in same-sex marriage as teachers or accept their children as students, and that Catholic politicians who support legalised abortion shouldn't receive Communion.

The "right wing of the church...have not been really happy" about the new pope," he told the National Catholic Reporter in 2011.

"He'll have to care for them, too."

The Archbishop  holds conservative views on a number of ethical issues such as abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage and has expressed frustration at a "story line about a compassionate Pope Francis and conservative Catholic bishops" who supposedly "talk too much about abortion and religious freedom while they overlook the poor."

"I hope when Pope Francis flies home he'll understand that American bishops share every ounce of his passion for the poor, beginning with the unborn child but not ending there," he said.