“Deacon” Voris and Cardinals Dolan and Neinsteadt are probably picking their jaws up off the ground right about now. Pope Francis I announced today that the Catholic Church has the right to express its opinions about homosexuality, but that it does not have the right to “interfere spiritually” in the lives of lesbians and gays.
In fact, the Pope went further saying that the Church needs to find a balance between its spiritual and political missions or have its moral foundation “fall like a house of cards.”
In an interview with Reverend Antonio Spadaro, the editor of La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal, the Pope answered several questions.
Pope Francis noted that, as bishop of Buenos Aires, he received numerous letters from lesbians and gays who said that they were “socially wounded” by the church, and noted that “the church does not want to do this.” The pontiff then went on to discuss his comments back in July about “Who am I to judge” LGBT people, and told Spadaro that “By saying this, I said what the catechism says.”
He noted that the catechism, or official Catholic doctrine, condemns homosexual acts, but that lesbians and bays “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”
He went on to say that “Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”
Francis then recalled a time when he was asked if he ‘approved’ of homosexuality and he “I replied with another question. `Tell me, when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being.”
The pontiff also noted that he is quite aware of the criticism coming from the Conservative wing of the Catholic Church. Recently, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island stated that “I’m a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis that he hasn’t, at least that I’m aware of, said much about unborn children, about abortion, and many people have noticed that.” Tobin and others have criticized Francis for not taking a hard line on abortion and same-sex marriage.
To that, Francis stated that he is not going to change his approach to the subjects or to people and that “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that.”
He feels that the Catholic Church’s teachings on the subject are clear and that means that there is not much else to say right now.
In fact, Pope Francis seemed to counter the criticism by stating that “The church has sometimes locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The people of God want pastors not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.”
Unfortunately for Pope Francis, it often seems as if most Catholic Bishops are more concerned with temporal power than the spiritual well being of their flocks.
Still, while Pope Francis may seem far more liberal than conservative, he is not going to allow women to be ordained within the Church, but did call for Catholics to think about the position of women in the Church saying that “Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role.”
The pontiff did note that he has made mistakes in the past, and that his “authoritarianism and quick manner of making decisions” lead to many of them. He noted that only false prophets can claim to have all the answers and that “The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord.”
With regards to the reforms he is making, Francis stated “Many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time. I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment.”
The issue for many LGBT people is that they just want the Catholic Church to get out of the business of interfering with temporal politics and worry about their own house. In any society that welcomes diversity, it is necessary for the laws to be the most inclusive, and while LGBT people are not calling for the Catholic Church to change their views on homosexuality, they just want the Vatican to not pressure lawmakers on the issues.
Most people, especially in the United States, feel that it is up to the individual to live their life in accordance to their religious beliefs and not force them on others through laws enacted from upon high, a trend started in England with the deposing of King Charles II and a revocation of the Divine Right of Kings.
Many feel that the discussion in the Church about homosexuality is something that should be taken care of within the Catholic Church, and while this changes nothing regarding the Church’s official position, it may signal an end to papal pressure on various governments to enforce discrimination against LGBT people.