Last week I noted that in his visit to Brazil for World Youth Day, Pope Francis had not a word to say about gay marriage – even though this year alone, marriage equality has been approved in five countries, four states in the USA, (with more to come) and six in Brazil. Some bishops are warning that this represents the end of civilization as we know it – but it is clear from his silence that Pope Francis is not unduly concerned about it. There are far more important issues, more authentically Catholic concerns, that he believes we should be paying attention to. .
Today, he has delivered some thoughts which are more explicitly favourable, insisting that gays should be integrated into society, must not be marginalized or discriminated against, and should be welcomed into the priesthood. Welcome words indeed. There is in fact absolutely nothing new in this – it’s all absolutely standard, orthodox Catholic doctrine, which contains two parts. There is a compassionate side, directing that we should be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity, and protected from unjust discrimination, and from violence or malice, in words or in deeds. Then there’s the harsh side, denying absolutely any hope of physical expression of our loves in genital acts. The problem has been that many bishops, and the previous two popes, have ignored or directly flouted the compassionate parts of teaching, focusing exclusively on the harshest bits. Francis is not in any way signalling a shift in actual teaching – but he is introducing some sorely needed balance. That alone is welcome.
There’s a way to go yet to introduce sanity into the Catholic Church approach to human sexuality, for people of any orientation, but this is a great start.
Pope Francis: ‘Integrate gays into society’
POPE Francis, in some of the most compassionate words from any pontiff on gays, said they should not be judged or marginalised and should be integrated into society, but he reaffirmed Church teaching that homosexual acts are a sin.
In a broad-ranging 80-minute conversation with journalists on the plane bringing him back from a week-long visit to Brazil, Francis also said the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women priests was definitive, although he would like them to have more leadership roles in administration and pastoral activities.
Francis defended gays from discrimination in what was his first news conference since being elected pontiff in March, but also referred to the Catholic Church’s universal Catechism, which says that while homosexual orientation is not sinful, homosexual acts are.
“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” the pope said.
– more at Scotsman
It’s also worth remembering that although as pope,he has not said anything as yet on gay marriage, previously there was his very interesting response to the proposed introduction in Argentina of marriage and family equality. At the time. I noted the oddity of what appeared to have been a strenuous campaign by the church against the proposed legislation – but also the late start to the campaign. (There were allegations in some conservative circles, that if the Church had reacted more urgently, perhaps the legislation might have been defeated).
A newly published biography of Cardinal Bergoglio / Pope Francis by Paul Vallely provides some useful background information on the episcopal politics that explains this paradox. There were certain bishops in the Episcopal Conference who were always complaining to Rome behind Bergoglio’s backm trying to unseat him. In 2010 the conservative faction saw their opportunity:
It was at this point that Argentina’s politicians decided to introduce a law permitting same – sex couples to marry.Various conservative bishops and rabbis protested. “Bergoglio kept out of it” said Alicia Oliviera. “He was angry at the shocking things the conservatives were saying, linking homosexuality with paedophilia. When the law was issued he started talking about it. But he left it too late.”
Bergoglio went to the Bishops’ Conference with a strategy. The Church should offer to back same – sex civil unions as the “lesser of two evils” so long as gay marriage was ditched. He persuaded a prominent evangelical parliamentarian, Congressional Representative Cynthia Hutton, to make the same proposal in the legislature.
“Bergoglio was against same – sex marriage, but i favour of a law for equal rights for gays”, revealed Marco. “The hard – line conservatives were in the minority, but they were supported by the papal nuncio, and by Rome. The nuncio was at the meetings every week. The hard – line traditionalist bishops and Opus Dei had complained to Rome about Bergoglio”. It looked as though the bishops would say no to Bergoglio’s proposal. To regain some ground, Bergoglio embarked upon a dangerous tactic. A month before the parliament was due to vote, he wrote a letter about gay marriage, taking the orhodox line, and sent it to a closed order of Carmelite nuns, asking them to pray for the right outcome in the vote.
(This was the origin of his widely reported description of gay marriage as designed to “destroy God’s plan”, a “move by the Father of Lies to confuse and deceive the children of God”).
“He thought that a closed order would not make the contents public, but that he could send a copy of it to Rome to show he was doing what was required”, said Marco. “But it was published. The strategy backfired on him”.
(Cross – posted from “Queering the Church”)
- Pope Francis and Gay Marriage (queeringthechurch.com)
- Pope Francis reaches out to gays (news.queerchurch.com)
- Pope Francis: ‘Integrate gays into society’ (scotsman.com)
- Pope Francis: Who am I to judge gay people? (metro.co.uk)
- Pope Francis “You Can’t Marginalize” Gay People (lezgetreal.com)