If any off the cuff remark is ever destined to haunt the undisciplined public figure who let it fly it will be Pope Francis’ now famous comment about a homosexual–”Who am I to judge?” So an American state legislator quotes the pope to argue for same sex marriage, and now Catholic high school students are using the pope’s comments to campaign for the re-instatement of a homosexual teacher who was fired because he “married” another man. Warren Blumenfeld writes about the issue here for the Huffington Post. He’s not the only one. In my religion news feed it seems hardly a day goes by that some journalist or another taps out a self righteously indignant piece about homosexuality and the Catholic Church–beating faithful Catholics over the head with the Pope’s off the cuff remark. Suddenly people who never thought they would ever believe in the infallibility of the pope find themselves to be miraculously in favor of the doctrine. This unfortunate remark from Pope Francis will continue to be the basis for misunderstanding of the Catholic church’s teaching on sexual morality–and not only on the issue of homosexuality, but on just about anything. So a priest friend from a distant diocese told me what happened as he was preparing a couple for marriage. The boy was from a more conservative Catholic background. The girl was what we might call a “distant” Catholic. They were co-habiting. When the priest engaged them in discussion on this matter the girls said, “Oh, that’s all changed now. Pope Francis is far more understanding. He’s in favor of gay marriage like most people are. Cohabiting isn’t a bit deal. I don’t know why you’re bringing this up. The Pope wants you to be more welcoming. Who are you to judge?” What our dear Pope Francis doesn’t seem to get is that the situation in the United States is very different from the situation in Argentina where everyone is Catholic and understands Catholic moral teaching. There to say “who am I to judge?” is not to give carte blanche to everyone and excuse every moral failing. In the United States however, to say, “Who am I to judge?” is to give assent to the whole relativistic, do as you please society. “Who am I to judge?” is a kind of mantra of the me-me-me mentality where the only virtue is tolerance. The problem and the paradox of this whole issue is that the proper Catholic view is that we do NOT judge people’s final fate. We don’t condemn them, but we do name actions that are sinful. Increasingly, however, people are not willing to make the distinction between sin and sinner. When Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge?” he meant that even a pope was not in the place to rule on a person’s final destiny. The worldlings cannot see that a person might withhold judgement on a person while still judging their actions. Not judging a person must mean that one condones everything they do. This issue has now become so twisted and the logic so convoluted that all one can do is shut up. Argument seems pointless. When people like Blumenthal write and say stuff like this–what can on do?
Though they were taught and some may have even come to personally accept Church teachings and tenets related to same-sex sexuality and romantic relationships, students, nonetheless, are acting on a higher, wider, deeper and broader moral plane, a universal moral code built on a foundation of fairness and justice, compassion and care. They, therefore, have much to teach Catholics and others everywhere, and even the Pope himself. These inspired and emboldened young people have called into question the obvious paradox imposed by the Church, where it proclaims the sanctity of marriage and so-called “family values” and opposes divorce, while simultaneously pushing for the dissolution of two men’s vows, thereby showing its absolute contempt for their family. To be sure, no one, neither the new Pope nor anyone within the upper hierarchy of the Church has proposed actually changing long-standing policy — from the Catholic catechism that terms homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered,” to its official stands opposing marriage equality, and for that matter, opposition to women’s reproductive freedoms, ordination of women priests and priestly marriage — even though more and more Catholics stand in opposition to the Church’s proclamations on these issues.
Their understanding of the Catholic way of thinking and being is so absent and their pompous and self righteous pontificating so ignorant that all one can do is shake your head sadly and go about your daily business. What we are seeing is war for the Pope. The masters of the secular media want him for their own. They sense that they now have the world’s greatest religious leader as their mouthpiece. They will continue to twist his words and twist his actions for their agenda until he finally speaks clearly against what they are doing. Even now, when his latest statement is a strongly worded condemnation of abortion they say that he is simply trying to appease conservatives. People blamed Pope Benedict for public relations gaffes and communication nightmares over the Regensburg speech and SSPX Bishop Williamson. Pope Francis’ public relations gaffes and communication nightmares are starting to make Benedict look like a master of spin.