To hear tell from most news reports, you'd think that the Pope had basically redefined the Church's teaching on gay people and gay behavior. But that's not exactly what happened. Not quite.
First, the question posed to the Pope was about a so-called "gay lobby" within the Church. Here is his exact answer:
Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Agh… so much is written about the gay lobby. I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word gay. They say there are some gay people here. I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good. They are bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this point beautifully but says, wait a moment, how does it say, it says, these persons must never be marginalized and “they must be integrated into society.”A few important points:
The problem is not that one has this tendency; no, we must be brothers, this is the first matter. There is another problem, another one: the problem is to form a lobby of those who have this tendency, a lobby of the greedy people, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. This is the most serious problem for me. And thank you so much for doing this question. Thank you very much!
1) The Pope makes a distinction between a gay person "who seeks the Lord and has good will" and one who does not. He also makes a distinction between a gay person who is part of a "lobby" (that is, who actively advances or seeks to advance a gay agenda) and one who does not. He is reflecting the traditional Catholic distinction between thought, word and action and between an inclination to act and actually acting.
2) The Pope reaffirms the Catholic belief that no matter who you are or what your orientation, if you honestly come to the Lord -- if, as a sinner, you sincerely seek him with an open heart and good will --you will not be turned away. You will be forgiven and your sins will be forgotten. The Pope said:
But sins, if a person, or secular priest or a nun, has committed a sin and then that person experienced conversion, the Lord forgives and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we go to confession and we truly say “I have sinned in this matter,” the Lord forgets and we do not have the right to not forget because we run the risk that the Lord will not forget our sins, eh? This is a danger.
3) The Pope also reaffirms Catholic teaching again when he says: "Who am I to judge?" In the end, God is the final judge -- only God. (See above)
4) Finally -- and perhaps most importantly -- Pope Francis refers back to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and says that the Catechism "explains the point beautifully." The Catechism is the definitive source for Church teaching. Here's what it says:
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.And, also this:
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (2347)And, this as well:
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (2333)Note that all along the Church makes a clear distinction between gay orientation and actually acting on one's orientation -- between the orientation and the act.
Bottom line: The Pope espouses the dignity of every human being and calls for mutual respect while reaffirming basic Catholic teaching.
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