Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I guess I'm supposed to be impressed that Pope Francis said something about gay people that wasn't hostile, but in comparison with Pope Benedict, Francis still sees the same sex acts as sinful, so he's just playing good cop to Benedict's bad cop:
Never veering from church doctrine opposing homosexuality, Francis did strike a more compassionate tone than that of his predecessors, some of whom had largely avoided even saying the more colloquial "gay."

"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Francis told reporters, speaking in Italian but using the English word "gay."

Francis's words could not have been more different from those of Benedict XVI, who in 2005 wrote that homosexuality was "a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil," and an "objective disorder." The church document said men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" should not become priests.

Vatican experts were quick to point out that Francis was not suggesting that the priests or anyone else should act on their homosexual tendencies, which the church considers a sin.
Right -- the church thinks homosexual acts are sinful, and that if you're gay you should just stop engaging in those acts, and there's nothing here to indicate that Francis is deviating from that doctrine. Here's a slightly longer version of the quote from National Catholic Reporter's John C. Allen. The pope was responding to a question about whether there's a "gay lobby" in the Vatican:
"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 goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem ... they're our brothers."
Right -- the church believes you can have the tendency all you want -- just don't act on it, ever.

See this National Catholic Register story about a group called Courage:
The Courage apostolate's upcoming annual conference seeks to strengthen the faith and the confidence in Christ of Catholics who have same-sex attraction, helping them to live their call to chastity.
Yup -- if you're gay, you have a "call to chastity."

And maybe you're not gay at all. Father Paul Scalia -- son of Antonin and an ally of Courage -- has written about this:
... Scalia goes on to claim that many people have "have found freedom, to varying degrees, from homosexual attractions" and deny that people have sexual orientations: "Homosexual tendencies (to use a term from magisterial documents), do not constitute a fixed, unchangeable aspect of the person and therefore should not be considered an "orientation"..."
I don't see how anything Francis said changes this view, except he's saying it in a sunny, smiley way. The Catholic Church never yields on doctrine. (See what Francis said about the priesthood for women, in the same set of remarks: "On the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no. John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed.") This is the same old same old, with a human face.


Victor said...

I don't know, Steve, I understand your point - but sometimes even a small subtle shift to something a bit more positive like this, and away from open gay-bashing, can be seen as helpful.

He's at least acknowledging gays as human beings.

And, "...who am I to judge them?", sure seems like a step in the right direction.

I'd like to hear more of our American Reich Wingers saying the same thing.
They judge everyone every second of their lives, and if they don't meet their strict standards, immediately want to banish everyone who disagrees with them even in the slightest, to spend all eternity in Hell.

I'd welcome hearing an authentic, "Judge not, lest ye be judged," coming from Tony Perkins and Pat Robertson.

Carol Ann said...

All Catholic priests are supposed to be chaste, so gay or straight doesn't matter. The call to chastity is correct given the parameters.

Palli said...

Anyone who believes in the infallibility of any Man is simply self-serving or willfully ignorant.

Tom Hilton said...

I lean more toward Steve's view than the more optimistic interpretation. The Roman church is so fundamentally corrupt and evil--evil and corruption are so fundamental to their ideology--that even if Pope Francis is as good as a lot of people would like to think, it wouldn't make much difference in the church.

The absolute best case scenario would be that Francis is the Roman church's Gorbachev, but I'm not sure he has the inclination to be that figure and I'm not sure he'd succeed if he does.

Kathy said...

Andy Borowitz pretty much nailed it on his FB page today:

"It's official: Pope Francis has a more modern view of gays than Justice Scalia."

Paul Canning said...

The sunny view seen through an African context makes his statement important.

Other Christian leaders there would never say this, so it has some meaning.

Steve M. said...

Good point.

(Though I think it'll take more than an offhand remark to have an impact on the anti-gay movements in Africa. Actual doctrinal change would be a lot more effective.)

Philo Vaihinger said...

"The Catholic Church never yields on doctrine."

Exactly. Too many forget, or pretend to forget.

There will be no actual doctrinal change.

Tom Hilton said...

Other Christian leaders there would never say this, so it has some meaning.

Except that the single most prominent Christian leader in Africa made a much stronger statement against homophobia than Pope Francis will ever make.

Paul Canning said...

@Tom Hilton

Tutu has been saying that sort of thing for years.

He's not the most prominent, just from our perspective. Local leaders are. The Catholic head in Uganda has form, similar to Francis and that meant more than Tutu. Same in Malawi with some Christian leaders there playing a calming role.

Tutu's disregarded by, say, Catholics but also the evangelical mob which thrive with US seed funding (US is exporting homophobia dontchaknow). It's largely them driving the backlash which is going on.

I think as well that the OTT reaction of conservative Catholics shows that Francis' comments carry weight.

I'm not schilling for him, just thinking this will be good for Africa.