Francis’s man in nearby Lexington, KY, speaks at a conference for a dissentient organization:

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, praised New Ways Ministry at the group’s annual conference in Chicago last week.

“New Ways Ministry made me want to come here,” the bishop said, extolling the group for its outreach to people who are “really struggling” with Church teaching on the immorality of homosexual acts.

The bishop’s appearance was a breakthrough for New Ways Ministry. The organization drew a caution from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1999, and in 2011 the US bishops’ conference issued its own statement that New Ways Ministry should not be regarded as a Catholic organization, because of its dissent from Church teachings. Several bishops have refused to allow the organization’s leaders to speak at parishes in their dioceses.

In his remarks to the group, Bishop Stowe tackled the controversial question of whether Catholic institutions should remove openly homosexual employees. He replied in the negative, saying: “We risk contradicting ourselves if we want our employees to live by the church’s teaching and if we ourselves as an institution don’t live by our teaching, which has always opposed discrimination of any sort.”

Bishop Stowe, a Franciscan, was appointed to the Lexington see by Pope Francis in 2015.