April 8, 2009 / 4:32 PM / 10 years ago

Blair says Vatican out of step with public on gay issues

Tony Blair, Head of the Middle-East Quartet and Member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 29, 2009. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener

LONDON (Reuters) - The Vatican is out of step with ordinary Catholics and the public over homosexuality, former Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an interview on Wednesday.

Blair, who converted to Catholicism in 2007 and advocated pro-gay policies while in power, said average Catholics had more liberal views on homosexuality than Church leaders and would not say condemning it was an important part of their faith.

“If you went into any Catholic Church ... on any Sunday here and did a poll of the congregation, you’d be surprised at how liberal-minded people were,” he told gay magazine Attitude.

He said there was a “huge generational difference” in attitudes within the Church on homosexuality, adding that he doubted most Catholics had entrenched views on such issues.

The Church views homosexual acts, but not homosexuality itself, as a sin.

Blair, Labour prime minister for a decade from 1997, stopped short of challenging the Vatican’s view of homosexuality directly, but pressed for a “rethinking” of some religious texts and thought on the subject.

“Now, my view is that rethinking is good, so let’s carry on rethinking,” he said. “We need an attitude of mind where rethinking and the concept of evolving attitudes becomes part of the discipline with which you approach your religious faith.”

It was important to view religious texts and thought as capable of evolving, Blair said, citing the Koran as another text which should be viewed in light of current attitudes.

“When people quote the passages in Leviticus condemning homosexuality, I say to them — if you read the whole of the Old Testament and took everything that was there in a literal way ... you’d have some pretty tough policies.”

Reporting by Nick Vinocur, edited by Richard Meares

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