Pope Francis, responding to reporters’ questions, said, “Who am I to judge gay people?” Though what he said about homosexuality and gay priests is being hailed as a revolutionary change, he really didn’t alter church teaching. He just spun it differently. After the jump, an account of what he said and some reflections.
Pope Francis has said gay people should not be marginalised but integrated into society.
Speaking to reporters on a flight back from Brazil, he reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church’s position that homosexual acts were sinful, but homosexual orientation was not.
He was responding to questions about whether there was a “gay lobby” in the Vatican.
“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?”
He also said he wanted a greater role for women in the Church, but insisted they could not be priests.
The Pope arrived back in Rome on Monday after a week-long tour of Brazil – his first trip abroad as pontiff – which climaxed with a huge gathering on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach for a world Catholic youth festival.
Festival organisers estimated it attracted more than three million people.
His remarks on gay people are being seen as much less judgemental than his predecessor’s position on the issue.
Pope Benedict XVI signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.
But Pope Francis said gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” Pope Francis said in a wide-ranging 80-minute long interview with Vatican journalists.
“It says they should not be marginalised because of this but that they must be integrated into society.”
But he condemned what he described as lobbying by gay people.
“The problem is not having this orientation,” he said. “We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem.”
First reaction: At least he’s making a clear stand against the Masons!
Second reaction: The distinction between a homosexual orientation and homosexual “acts” is an important one.
In the matter of priests, Roman Catholicism teaches that priests may not have sex at all. They are under a vow of celibacy. Thus, it doesn’t really matter, according to this thinking, what the sexual orientation is of a priest. Whether he is heterosexual or homosexual, he must remain chaste and celibate. So there is no problem with a homosexual priest as long as he remains celibate.
This is a departure, though, from the Pope’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, who told those in charge of accepting men into seminary and ultimately the priesthood to consider homosexuality as something unsuitable for priests. Of course, that pope was dealing with the sexual abuse scandal, which overwhelmingly involved homosexual relations. Pope Francis needs to be cognizant of that also.
Other than that, what did you think about what he said and how he came across? Is it really necessary to be “judgmental” to gays? How can the distinction between orientation and actions be applied?