Pope Francis in 80-minute Q and A: ‘Who am I to judge gay people?’
29 July 2013
Pope Francis has said that gay people should not be judged, and that gay men can be priests.
Pope Francis told reporters aboard the papal flight from Word Youth Day in Brazil: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
In his responses to journalists aboard the flight back to Rome from Rio de Janeiro last night, he referred to the Catechism, which does not permit homosexual activity. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says [gay people] should not be marginalised because of this [orientation] but that they must be integrated into society,” he said.
But his tone was notably more conciliatory than the Catechism, which describes gay people as “objectively disordered”, and a 2005 directive issued under Pope Benedict XVI that said men with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” could not be ordained.
Referring to reports that a trusted aide he recently appointed to a senior role at the Vatican bank was involved in an alleged gay tryst a decade ago, Francis said he investigated the allegations against the man – assumed to be Mgr Battista Ricca – and found nothing to back them up.
Regarding the ban on communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, he said: “I believe this is a time of mercy, a change of epoch. It’s a kairos moment for mercy.” His comments contrast those of the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, who said in press interviews in June that those who remarry after a divorce were in situations in which it was impossible to appeal to God’s mercy.
Pope Francis told the journalists the issue of communion for those who have divorced and remarried had to be seen within the larger pastoral context of marriage, which was an issue he said the newly formed council of eight cardinals would look into. But he added: “It’s complicated.”
The Pope also said that the canonisation date for two of his predecessors John XXIII and John Paul II may be put back to 27 April 2014. No date had been formally announced but it was thought the canonisations could take place in December.
His remarks came during an unscripted 80-minute press conference during which he also said that his efforts to reform the Curia had been informed by conversations he had with cardinals before the papal conclave.
Having just today returned from a few days in Rome (where my wallet was stolen during a visit to Saint Peter’s Basilica – at the end of a two months holiday in Europe) viewing the immense crowds that still congregate around this important symbol of Roman Catholic piety; I found this article, printed in the latest edition of the English R.C. newspaper, ‘The Tablet’, most inspiring:
“Pope Francis has said that gay people should not be judged, and that gay men can be priests.” – ‘Tablet’ article : 29 July, 2013 –
This revelation, of Pope Francis’ openness towards Gay people, and even the admission that Gay people can be priests, is something radically new for the Roman Catholic Church in our day and age. Of course, in this question and answer session with journalists – en route by plane from Brazil to Rome, after the recent Youth Congress – the Pope is still not dogmatically departing from the traditional Roman Catholic stance on the ‘sinfulness’ of homosexual acts. What he is doing, however, is confirming the fact that to be amongst the intrinsically gay is not, of itself, sinful, nor the result of a disordered personality. This, though, does not detract from the fact that a Bishop of Rome is now saying that Gay people need to be respected and affirmed by the Church – no less than by the world the Church serves.
This may seem pretty mundane news to most of the world’s population, but to those in the Roman Catholic Church, and to those people who happen to be intrinsically gay, this is a remarkable turnaround from the teaching of previous Popes on the subject of homosexuality. What the Pope is indicating here is that the traditional Christian attitude of disrespect towards gay people can no longer be considered feasible. Though not actually announcing any particular doctrinal change; Pope Francis is seen now to be more hospitable to a class of people long since thought to be outside the classical definition of Christian disciple-ship. No doubt, from his own much closer attachment to the pastoral needs of the world’s poorest and marginalised people; Pope Francis is redefining what ought to be the attitude of Christians towards the modern ‘lepers’ in today’s society.
Let’s hope and pray that other religious leaders may take note of the Pope’s eirenic and pastorally sensitive statement about the acceptability of the gay community by the Church.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand (now safely back in Godzone).