MADISON, Wis. -

In one of his most in-depth interviews yet, Pope Francis recently made comments that could possibly solidify his progressive image. The pope particularly expanded on his opinions about homosexuals.

In the three-day interview approved by the Vatican, Francis said the church shouldn’t be obsessed with homosexuality, contraception and abortion. And while the church doctrine condemns homosexual acts, the pope also said gays and lesbians must be accepted with respect.

Madison’s Catholic bishop, Robert Morlino, was quoted in a July newspaper interview saying that “behavior can never be justified.”

In 2006, Bishop Morlino recorded a message to churchgoers. In it he said, “There is no right to redefine marriage, and if we admit that there is such a right, then that causes the collapse of the family and that causes the collapse of society in due time.” In 2010, Morlino participated in a rally at the Capitol against gay marriage.

Thursday, Morlino said he and the pope agree on important matters but express their beliefs in different ways.

“I’d like to take him to dinner some night and have a dialogue and have him understand, I’m no different than he is,” said Mary Kaye Radtke, a local Catholic and a lesbian.

Radtke left the diocese because of Morlino’s stance on gays. She’s hopeful the church is changing, with a pope at the helm who said in that latest interview that the church needs to be more open to everyone. She and her partner have been members of Holy Wisdom Monastery for 18 years.

“They’re all about service and giving back to the land,” said Radtke. “We consider ourselves Catholic and we’re going to continue down our faith path or journey, and now I’m excited the pope is coming on my journey with me.”

While some parishioners like Radtke felt forced from the church by Morlino’s statements, diocese officials have been quoted as saying it’s unfair to blame the bishop, and pointed to national sex-abuse scandals for a decrease in Mass attendance.

Radtke said when she first started at Holy Wisdom, there were 50 to 70 members. Now there are nearly 400. And she has no plans to leave.

“Madison is a large diocese and they need to be more progressive and understanding of the people they serve, not the people serving them,” said Radtke.

Morlino declined an interview request because he’s attending a seminar at Notre Dame, but he emailed this statement.

“The Pope is clearly offering his good pastoral counsel about our being, first and foremost, ministers of Jesus’ love and mercy. This is something that every member of Christ’s Church should take to heart and make part of their evangelization efforts. Given the confusion about Pope Francis’ statements that has emerged from the media coverage to date, I think it’s inopportune to offer extensive observations which will probably be subjected to like misinterpretation. I think that, analogous to the “spirit of Vatican II”, a distorted “spirit of Pope Francis” is being concocted which is equally, if not more misleading. For me, it is not prudent to respond further to the Holy Father’s remarks at this time.”