I had the great pleasure of interviewing Fr. Paul Check, Executive Director of Courage International, for the National Catholic Register. The conversation ranged from natural law and moral theology to the challenge of ministering to people with same-sex attraction in our crazy times.
Here’s a little section in which we spoke about Pope Francis:
For a year now, we’ve heard Pope Francis’ words — “Who am I to judge?”— taken out of context and thrown back in the face of anyone talking about traditional Church teaching on homosexuality. Has this had any effect on your ministry?
Though I don’t want to pretend I’m an authentic interpreter of the Pope’s words, I think it’s been the source of unintended confusion. I think people do a terrible injustice to Francis — whether they understand him to be the vicar of Christ on earth or not — if they put words into his mouth or attach meaning to his words, that he clearly does not intend. We can take him at his own words when he says “I am a loyal son of the Church,” or when he makes reference to the Catechism on the topic of homosexuality, as he did in that same interview. It may be the case that the Pope would like to reformulate some things he has said — as a public speaker, I often do! — but there isn’t anything in his remarks that presents a challenge to the work of Courage or any other apostolate.
Not long ago, he made it very plain that a child had a right to a father and mother, and therefore he was speaking very plainly to the subject of same-sex adoptions.
I like the way Pope Francis talks about the importance of establishing relationships with people so we can talk to them about the deeper questions. The example that I use is John 4: the story of the Woman at the Well. Jesus establishes a relationship with the woman to such a degree that when the conversation is over, she goes to town and tells people. That’s important for us as Christians and as ambassadors of the gospel: to establish a ground for conversation.
Jesus shows us in John 4 what true charity looks like, and Francis is holding this up for our understanding and imitation — especially on controversial questions. It’s a valid way forward so that we can have real hope of sharing the good news.
Fr. Check will be attending the Courage Conference 2014, taking place Thursday through Sunday in Villanova, Pa. I’ll be there on Saturday.