Nothing like the prospect of the Catholic Church “welcoming” gays to cause hysteria in conservative ranks.

Will conservatives turn on Pope Francis?” read the Crux headline on John Allen’s analysis. Will outraged hardliners start a movement to secede?

A worked-up priest from South Carolina has written an essay to the “who-am-I-to-judge?” pope telling Francis how to do his job. That’s what I call chutzpah.

And here’s a smattering of revved-up comments posted on Crux stories about the synod and gays, including one I wrote about a lesbian couple and their two daughters.

Eyang: “This is sickness of the first order! Lesbians and Gays are sick people in need of therapy. This thing has destroyed and continues to destroy the US and the Church in the US.”

Kag1982 to Eyang: “
I think that the sentiment that you espouse is sick.”

AugustineThomas to Kag1982: “
I think your hatred of the teachings of God’s Church is sick.”

bonaventure: “Homosexuality is toxic.”

LWC to bonaventure: “Hate is toxic. “

Neko to bonaventure: “vile.”

bonaventure swings back: “There was nothing vile in my comment. Again, I just spoke the truth about the sexual perversion known as homosexuality …”

And on it goes.

Let me point out the obvious here: Nobody gets this riled up when the pope — any pope — calls on remiss Catholics to pick up the pace on helping the poor, feeding the hungry, or welcoming the stranger. The hysteria — and anger — always centers on sex and gender.

What’s that about?

Ah, that’s the great-unanswered question. I have my theories.

But this much I know: These sex/gender protesters protest much too much, and too vehemently — which is why Francis correctly called them … obsessed.

Hope remains for those of us seeking to “welcome” gays, too. For one, Francis can play political hardball. He’s rumored to be ready to demote US Cardinal Raymond Burke, former archbishop of St. Louis, who has called gay relationships disordered and the “acts” gays commit “always and everywhere wrong, evil.”

I write this from Boston, where gay marriage has been legal for 10 years, where gays and lesbians raise children in picket fence homes with little fanfare or notice, join parent-teacher organizations, chaperone fall apple-picking trips. My children grew up with many children who had “two moms.” My children are fine. The “two moms” children are fine. Voters here are about to elect their first gay attorney general. In this very blue state, a gay Republican is in a close congressional race with a Democratic war hero.

True, anti-gay bigots remain here, as elsewhere. But for the most part, we have moved on. My prayer: That Francis prevails over the bigots within the Church and that Catholicism, at last, moves on as well.