06/14/2013 12:56 pm ET Updated Aug 14, 2013

What Is the Vatican Saying to Gays?

As a gay man and an Episcopal priest, I'm frankly extremely confused by the Vatican right now when it comes to the entire gay question.

Am I loved by anybody 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 strange was going on when Pope Benedict "retired" or vanished. He had never been a civil rights leader for gay people. Not at all. Yet he was a spiritual leader for millions of people. Did he have, in the recesses of his mind, any kind of "solution" to the "gay question"?

But then, rather suddenly, strange things started happening in the Vatican. The pope's valet seems to have taken, and published, certain documents that were highly controversial. (What was going on here?) The guy was found guilty of something, and could have gone to jail, but the pope "forgave" him. End of story? I don't think so. Then the pope vanished from the scene. The huge Vatican operation came to a kind of halt. Benedict was given the equivalent of an award dinner -- and vanished.

Pope Francis abruptly appeared. A new star in the global pantheon. A nice enough guy as images go. Yet, as a gay man, I couldn't know really what to expect. (Yes, I hoped for a new face, a new mind, a new soul.) Like, would I ever feel he understood me at all? Wanted me to have full (equal) 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'd washed his own shirt at night. He chose the name "Francis" after a globally loved, truly saintlike person everybody has adored for ages. Was there a promising signal here?

Now, however, there's suddenly a total change in the scene with the strange emergence of "gay lobby" in the Vatican scene. Pope Francis is 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 popular 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."

Say what? Will you repeat that and can we get a closeup?

A question on the street clearly is: What in hell is going on here? Are we talking about homosexuality or blackmail? In any case, what's the precise connection?

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

In my own case, the worst time was after I came out. Not to applausse. 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, and also had strong and supportive friends. I made it. My life partner and I have been together for just under 30 years. My life is open and filled with great people.

New on my cultural horizon is Pope Francis. 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, leaves me quietly meditating with God, and blesses my union with my mate or partner.

Is this asking too much? Pope Francis, are you on board?