'Who am I to judge?' pope says of gay priests

New pontiff's stance is a reversal of his predecessor's
Associated Press
Jul 30, 2013

 

A remarkably candid Pope Francis struck a conciliatory stance toward gays Monday, saying "who am I to judge" when it comes to the sexual orientation of priests.

"We shouldn't marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society," Francis said during an extraordinary 82-minute exchange with reporters aboard his plane returning from his first papal trip, to celebrate World Youth Day in Brazil.

"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" the pope asked.

Francis' first news conference as pope was wide-ranging and open, touching on everything from the greater role he believes women should have in the Catholic Church to the troubled Vatican Bank.

While his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, responded to only a few pre-selected questions during his papal trips, Francis did not dodge a single query, even thanking the journalist who asked about reports of a "gay lobby" inside the Vatican and allegations that one of his trusted monsignors was involved in a gay tryst.

Francis said he investigated the allegations against the clergyman according to canon law and found nothing to back them up. He took journalists to task for reporting on the matter, saying it concerned issues of sin, not crimes like sexually abusing children. And when someone sins and confesses, he said, God not only forgives — he forgets.

"We don't have the right to not forget," he said.

While the comments did not signal a change in Catholic teaching that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered," they indicated a shift in tone under Francis' young papacy and an emphasis on a church that is more inclusive and merciful rather than critical and disciplinary.

Francis' stance contrasted markedly with that of Benedict, who signed a document in 2005 that said men who had deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.

Gay leaders were buoyed by Francis' approach, saying the change in tone was progress in itself, although for some the encouragement was tempered by Francis' talk of gay clergy's "sins."

"Basically, I'm overjoyed at the news," said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the U.S.-based New Ways Ministry, a group that promotes justice and reconciliation for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and the wider church community.

"For decades now, we've had nothing but negative comments about gay and lesbian people coming from the Vatican," DeBernardo said in a telephone interview from Maryland.

The largest U.S. gay rights group, Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that the pope's remarks "represent a significant change in tone."

Still, said Chad Griffin, the HRC president, as long as gays "are told in churches big and small that their lives and their families are disordered and sinful because of how they were born — how God made them — then the church is sending a deeply harmful message."

In Italy, the country's first openly gay governor, Nichi Vendola, urged fellow politicians to learn a lesson from the pope.

"I believe that if politics had one-millionth of the capacity to ... listen that the pope does, it would be better able to help people who suffer," he said.

Vendola praised the pope for drawing a clear line between homosexuality and pedophilia. "We know that a part of reactionary clerical thought plays on the confusion between these two completely different categories," he said.

Francis also said he wanted a greater role for women in the church, though he insisted "the door is closed" to ordaining them as priests. In one of his most important speeches in Rio, Francis described the church in feminine terms, saying it would be "sterile" without women.

Funny and candid, Francis' exchange with the media was exceptional. While Pope John Paul II used to have on-board talks with journalists, he would move about the cabin, chatting with individual reporters so it was hit-or-miss to hear what he said. After Benedict's maiden foreign voyage, the Vatican insisted that reporters submit questions in advance so the theologian pope could choose three or four he wanted to answer with prepared comments.

Francis did not shy away from controversial topics, including reports suggesting that a group of gay clergymen exert undue influence on Vatican policy. Italian news media reported this year that the allegations of a so-called "gay lobby" contributed to Benedict's decision to resign.

"A lot is written about this gay lobby. I still haven't found anyone at the Vatican who has 'gay' on his business card," Francis said, chuckling. "You have to distinguish between the fact that someone is gay and the fact of being in a lobby."

The term "gay lobby" is bandied about with abandon in the Italian media and is decidedly vague. Interpretations of what it means have ranged from a group of celibate gay priests who are friends, to suggestions that a group of sexually active gay priests use blackmail to exert influence on Vatican decision-making.

Stressing that Catholic teaching calls for homosexuals to be treated with dignity and not marginalized, Francis said he would not condone anyone using private information for blackmail or to exert pressure.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit author and commentator, saw the pope's remarks as a sign of mercy. "TodayPope Francis has, once again, lived out the Gospel message of compassion for everyone," he said in an emailed statement.

Speaking in Italian with occasional lapses in his native Spanish, Francis dropped a few nuggets of news:

— He said he is thinking about traveling to the Holy Land next year and is considering invitations from Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

— The planned Dec. 8 canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will likely be changed — perhaps until the weekend after Easter — because road conditions in December would be dangerously icy for people from John Paul's native Poland traveling to the ceremony by bus.

Francis also he solved the mystery that had been circulating since he was pictured boarding the plane to Rio carrying his own black bag, an unusual break with Vatican protocol.

"The keys to the atomic bomb weren't in it," Francis quipped, referring to the case that accompanies U.S. presidents with nuclear launch codes. The bag, he said, contained a razor, a prayer book, his agenda and a book on St. Therese of Lisieux, to whom he is particularly devoted.

"It's normal" to carry a bag when traveling, he said, displaying a simplicity of style that separates him from previous pontiffs, who until a few decades ago were carried around on platforms.

"We have to get used to this being normal."

 

 

Comments

starryeyes83

They are still suppose to take a VOW of celibacy, and abide by it, no matter what their orientation is.

Not that they do, and I don't mean the sex abuse scandals ... those have been going on since time began.

SamAdams

@starryeyes83: EXACTLY! Whatever or whomever a priest finds attractive, he is obligated by his vocation and his vows to take no action. As long as he doesn't, his sexuality is utterly immaterial.

I will say that I appreciate this Pope's stance. If, as so many Christians (including Catholics) say, we're to hate the sin but love the sinner, there's no religious rationale whatsoever to harass or hurt others.

themomx6

Interesting that he said " who am I to judge". What about all the other sins that priests hear in confession??? They are allowed to judge those? But only homosexuality is for God to judge? Seems the "pope" is just being "politically correct" and speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Sad that even the "leader" of the RCC apparently has no clue what Scripture says.

Justme...

I am assuming you aren't Catholic. Confession is not about being judged by the priest. Its about celebrating God's forgiveness with the help of a priest. And as stated above, a homosexual priest has committed no sin just by being homosexual if he honors his vow of celebacy.

themomx6

Sure..............whatever makes you feel good.

However.....This is in stark contract to the former pope of the Roman church, Ratzinger who stated in writing that men who are gay should not be priests:

"His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Francis was much more conciliatory, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten." (source)

According to CatholicCulture.org, it is Ratzinger who upholds "Church teaching/policy".

Does Bergoglio have the right to change this teaching/policy?

Are Roman Catholics comfortable with gay priests?

Do Roman Catholics think gay priests glorify God who calls homosexuality (NOT just the practice of it) an abomination in His sight?

Justme...

Shoot, we've had gay priests forever. I am sure there are many men who entered the priesthood rather than lead a homosexual lifestyle.

themomx6

Oh....right...............that just makes it all OK.........got ya!

Sad.

Mystery_Cheese

Jesus would be ashamed of how hateful some of his 'followers' can be towards others.

JudgeMeNot

The truth offends most people.

Nemesis

Momx6, you need to go back and read your Bible some more. Abomination refers to the act, not the motive.

freethinker1

Mom: if the Pope has no clue what Scripture says, he's in good company. Most people of faith are completely unaware (or unbothered) by the many contradictions in the Bible, and the fact that many thousands of deaths mentioned in the Bible are attributed to God (and I'm not including the Great Flood). Meanwhile, only ten (10) deaths are attributed to Satan.

Contango

Re: "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

According to the Gospels, when Jesus "forgave" the adulterous woman, He also instructed her to "go and sin no more."

Repetition of the "offense" would negate the forgiveness.

http://www.biblegateway.com/pass...

Therein lies the rub.

Justme...

AGAIN, if he honors his vow of celebacy, what sin is he committing?

Contango

"Celibacy refers to a state of being unmarried and sexually abstinent,"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cel...

Justme...

Correct, what's your point?

Contango

Re:"what sin is he committing?"

What's YOUR point?

Who are you referencing that is committing what "sin"?

Justme...

My point is a priest who is celebate, even if he is gay, is not committing a sin.

Contango

Re: "My point is a priest who is celebate, even if he is gay,"

I would agree. But that's a fine point.

It's not the heterosexual escapades that are causing the row.

It's not even homosexuality; it's the "act" of pedophilia.

If the Pope is saying that he won't "judge" pedophile priests - that's a whole other can of worms.

Justme...

OK, well pedophilia is a completely different subject, and that's not what the pope was commenting on.

Contango

Re: "well pedophilia is a completely different subject,"

Understood. But remember Murphy’s Law:

If it can be misunderstood, it will be.

As a recovering cradle Catholic, I've known many "effeminate" priests and seldom if ever wondered about their sexual orientation.

How the h*ll is one to "know" if a priest is "gay" or not?

Justme...

To me, if they are celebate, their sexuality is not relevant. As you said, you don't wonder about their sexual orientation. To me its a non issue.

Contango

Re: "To me, if they are celebate, their sexuality is not relevant."

And priests NEVER lie do they? :)

AGAIN: How the h*ll is one to "know" if a priest is "gay" or not?

Bonus question: And one will know that they are celibate how?

Stop It

Who frippin' cares?

Contango

Re: "Who frippin' cares?"

Why not?

The Big Dog's back

Mostly all pedophiles are heterosexual.

Contango

@ The Big Dog's back:

And dogs are bi-sexual. :)

JudgeMeNot

LMAO. Poochy wont touch that.

meowmix

You're 100% correct BD! But you know how homophobes are, they also have to somehow villify gays because of their own latent desire which they choose not to acknowledge.

JudgeMeNot

So not being in favor of same sex marriage makes one a homophobe? Really? Please post less about which you know nothing. It would help us all.

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