August 9, 2013

Editorial

Pope Francis on homosexuality

After one of the most dramatic and successful papal journeys since the days of Blessed John Paul II, the secular media decided that the most important news was in the remarks that Pope Francis made in a press conference during his flight back to Rome from Brazil. He answered a question about homosexual priests during which he said, “A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will—well, who am I to judge him?”

The media jumped on that answer as if it were surprising or sensational.

However, this isn’t new teaching, and the pope tried to make that clear when he continued, “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society.”

Pope Francis was referring to a paragraph in the catechism, which says that men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (#2358).

The Catholic Church has always differentiated between people with a homosexual orientation and homosexual acts. The acts are sinful, as are any other sexual acts except those between men and women who are married to each other and the acts are open to the possible procreation of a child.

It appears that, in our society, many heterosexual men and women have just as much trouble following that teaching as homosexual men and women. And that’s what the sacrament of reconciliation is for. Homosexuals can be forgiven for their acts just as can a man or woman who confesses premarital sex or adultery.

The Church is made up of sinners, both heterosexual and homosexual, and it always has been. Pope Francis alluded to that, too, when he said, “If a person, whether a layperson, priest or sister, goes to confession and converts, the Lord forgives. And when the Lord forgives, he forgets. This is important. St. Peter committed one of the biggest sins ever—he denied Christ—and he made him pope.”

The discussion of homosexuality came up during the press conference after a reporter asked about Msgr. Battista Ricca. Soon after Pope Francis named him the interim leader of the Vatican Bank, an Italian magazine published a story that claimed that Msgr. Ricca had been sent away from a nunciature in Latin America when it was learned that he had a male lover. The pope responded that he did what canon law said he should do: “I ordered a preliminary investigation, and this investigation found nothing.”

Then the pope noted that too many times we go searching for sins—“of one’s youth, for example—for publicity.” He made it clear that he wasn’t talking about crimes—“the abuse of a minor is a crime”—but sins.

However, he acknowledged that it was normal for the media to write about sinners and scandals because “a tree that falls makes more noise than a forest that grows.”

“The problem isn’t this [homosexual] orientation—we must be like brothers and sisters,” the pope said. “The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying.” Here he was referring to reports of a “gay lobby” at the Vatican that was protecting certain priests by blackmailing others. He called that worrisome.

The headlines and TV reports gave the impression that Pope Francis was talking about gay priests. It’s true that the question referred to that, but his reply seemed to apply to all homosexuals, but including gay priests. He answered questions in Spanish but used the English word “gay” when referring to homosexual males.

It’s true that some priests have a homosexual orientation. We fail to understand, though, what a celibate priest’s sexual orientation, either homosexual or heterosexual, has to do with the way he serves his people.

It’s typical of Pope Francis that he would emphasize forgiveness and display a pastoral attitude.

However, we can be sure that this won’t affect his opposition to redefining marriage and similar social issues.

—John F. Fink

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