Tim Constantine writes:
Where does Pope Francis stand on the issue of homosexuality? If you’ve read the mainstream media, you are excused from being unsure of the answer to this question.
In recent comments to the Associated Press on the topic of homosexuals, Pope Francis told the reporter, “We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are.” He even went so far as to say it is not a crime to be homosexual. That’s it, then? According to the Pope, God loves gay people, so it must be okay? (source)
That Associated Press interview is far from the only place the Pope has made “confusing” comments about LGBTQ people. He advocated for civil unions in a previous interview. He also tacitly endorses Father James Martin, who openly campaigns for a change in the Church’s doctrine of human sexuality.
But here’s the rub. I’ve learned over the course of Francis’s papacy that he expects you to do the dirty work yourself. He seldom clarifies himself. Either the Vatican press office will, or the DDF issues a statement. Sometimes nothing from either source. And sometimes what does come from either source just affirms that Francis is in line with Catholic tradition. Anyone who thinks Francis is pro-homosexuality can be forgiven, especially given how brief his remarks are and how far the mainstream media runs with it.
But is he?
Pope Francis is, unbelievably enough, articulating official Catholic doctrine. We are against the normalization of homosexual acts, but advocate for the personal dignity of such persons. Or, put another way: “Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons” (DDF, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, para. 5). We don’t approve of the sins they commit, but we will stand up for them and not stay quiet when they are unjustly oppressed.
In the oft-derided apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Francis made this stance clear. The Holy Father wrote:
In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, “as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” (Amoris Laetitia, para. 251)
The paragraph prior stated:
We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence (Amoris Laetitia, para. 250).
While Catholics rightly condemn homosexual acts, we love and welcome homosexual persons into our parishes without question or judgment. This is the tension we must maintain when we love the sinner but hate the sin, and is often mistaken as a call to accept gay marriage as valid. Francis anticipates that objection:
As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings. We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer. It is true that there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them. (Amoris Laetitia, para. 35)
The takeaway from all this is that Pope Francis, like the Catholic Church, has a nuanced position on the topic of same-sex attraction and on the legal issues that are now surrounding it. There isn’t an easy answer. But given the level of nuance, it is always worth giving Francis a second look. He’s often pointing to a richer truth within Church doctrine that you’ll need to dig for.