What Pope Francis could not mean regarding gay priests and what he actually said
The Pope’s remarks on the ‘gay lobby’ in response to a question on his return flight from Rio to Rome have sparked misleading coverage all over the world. From a look at the headlines of the major mainstream news sources in America and from the television and radio coverage comes a very confusing take on what the Pope actually said.
Pope Francis on gays: "Who am I to judge?" - CBS News Pope Francis says he won't judge gays - World - CBC News
And from an Israeli and a UK publication there was the following:
Pope digresses from document of predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, declaring that men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests - Haaretz.com
Pope Francis marks shift in attitude to gay Catholics on Brazil trip - Independent.co.uk
First off we need to look at what the Pope actually said, and in the context of the question asked.
He was asked a double question about how he would deal with “intimacy” of Bishop Ricca the prelate of the Vatican Bank and the whole issue of the ‘gay lobby.’
His full answer is posted at the bottom of this article but here are the key quotes being given erroneous interpretations in the mainstream media.
Distortion 1: Most media outlets are suggesting that Pope Francis is somehow saying there is nothing wrong with being gay.
“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” he asked, according to a Vatican Radio English translation of his remarks.
Understanding the Catholic teaching on homosexuality is necessary to understand the meaning of this phrase.
The Catholic faith teaches that all homosexual acts are presented in Sacred Scriptures as “acts of grave depravity”; that they are “intrinsically disordered” and that “under no circumstances can they be approved.” (Catechism 2357)
In another quote the Pope also said, according to Catholic News Serivce: “The problem isn't this (homosexual) orientation -- we must be like brothers and sisters.”
This quote cannot mean that the homosexual inclination is not any problem at all. The Catechism teaches that even the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered” and is a “trial” for most who experience it. (Catechism 2358)
Distortion 2: Since the context of the quote is in a discussion about a clergyman who is alleged to have been involved (as a priest) in a homosexual affair, the implication is that the Catholic Church is okay with gay priests.
Firstly, the Roman Catholic Church opposes any sexual activity by priests since they vow celibacy.
Secondly, especially after the horrors of the sex abuse crisis, which many have seen to be related to past tolerance of an active gay sub-culture within the Church, the Catholic Church has forbidden even those men with fixed homosexual inclinations from entering the seminary. In November 2005, the Congregation for Catholic Education released the "Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocation with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders."
The Instruction forbade admission to seminary to "those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’."
Distortion 3: Never judge and never discriminate. A few quotes from the Pope strung together would also leave a faulty impression without a knowledge of Catholic teaching on the matter.
In addition to the ‘who am I to judge’ quote some media are translating one phrase of the Pope to say that there must be no discrimination against homosexual persons, and that they must be accepted.
The Catechism does say: They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. (Catechism 2358)
The Catechism is specific that “unjust” discrimination is to be avoided, but the Church also teaches specifically that there is proper discrimination to be applied when it comes to confronting homosexual actions and tendencies.
Firstly as noted above, the ban on homosexuals entering the priesthood is already discrimination, a proper discrimination. Also in this 1992 Vatican document, the Catholic Church spells out other areas where such discrimination is needed, specifically in the areas of adoption, foster care, teaching, the military, and more.
And finally the most complete transcript of the full remarks of Pope Francis on the plane this morning returning from Rio comes from a couple of sources. (update: The Vatican has released a full transcript in Italian available here http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/speeches/2013/july/documents/papa-francesco_20130728_gmg-conferenza-stampa_it.html )
The first question was: Holiness, there was news published about the intimacy of Monsignor Ricci, how will you address this issue and how does His Holiness intend to address the whole issue of the "gay lobby"?
Vatican reporter John Allen gives this transcript of the Pope’s remarks:
The Ricca Case
“I did what canon law requires, which is to conduct a preliminary investigation. We didn’t find anything to confirm the things he was accused of, there was nothing … I’d like to add that many times we seem to seek out the sins of somebody’s youth and publish them. We’re not talking about crimes, which are something else. The abuse of minors, for instance, is a crime. But one can sin and then convert, and the Lord both forgives and forgets. We don’t have the right to refuse to forget … it’s dangerous. The theology of sin is important. St. Peter committed one of the greatest sins, denying Christ, and yet they made him pope! Think about that.”
“There’s a lot of talk about the gay lobby, but I’ve never seen it on the Vatican ID card!”
“When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … they’re our brothers.”
One final add on to the pope’s gay lobby remarks was provided by the BBC: “The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem."