Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Look not on our sins:" Pope Francis speaks on homosexuality

If you ask me, much too much is currently being made of the answer Pope Francis gave in responding to a question asked by Brazilian journalist Ilze Scamparini, who is a Vatican correspondent for Italy’s Globo network, during his in-flight news conference on his return trip to Rome from Rio de Janeiro last Sunday.

The transcript of his in-flight press conference is available only in Italian (some of it is in Spanish) on the Holy See’s website. Here is my imperfect translation of Scamparini’s question:
With permission, I would like to ask a question that is a little delicate, one that has been ‘turned over a bit’ all over the world, that concerning Mgr. Ricci, news about his intimate life. I want to know, Your Holiness, what will you do about this matter? How does Your Holiness intend to deal with this issue and the whole issue of the gay lobby?
While I initially originally translated Pope Francis’ response myself, I wound up using Matthew Sherry’s translation from Sandro Magister’s 31 July article on Chiesa “From Rio de Janeiro to Rome, from Poetry to Prose” with a few bits of my translation thrown in, which are in brackets:
"In the case of monsignor Ricca I have done what canon law says to do: an initial investigation. There has been found nothing of that of which he has been accused. We have not found anything. [This is the answer. But I would add one more thing on this:] Many times in the Church the sins of youth are sought out and then publicized. We are not talking about offenses, about crimes, like the abuse of minors which is a completely different thing, but about sins. But if a layperson or a priest or a sister has committed a sin and has converted and [repents], the Lord forgives, he forgets. [This is important for our lives. When we go to confession and sincerely say, “I have sinned in this,” the Lord forgets and so we do not have the right not to forget because then we run the risk that the Lord does not forget. That's a danger. This is important for our theology.] So many times I think of Saint Peter who committed the gravest sin, he denied Christ. And yet they made him pope. But I repeat, about Monsignor Ricca we have not found anything. [This is the first issue.] So much is written about the gay lobby. So far I have not found anyone at the Vatican who has written “gay” on his identity card. A distinction must be made between being gay, having this tendency, and being in a lobby. The lobbies, all lobbies, are not good. If a person is gay and is seeking the Lord with good will, who am I to judge him? The [C]atechism of the Catholic Church teaches that gay persons must not be discriminated against, but must be welcomed. The problem is not having this tendency, the problem is being in a lobby, and this applies here just as it does to business lobbies, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies. [This is the most serious problem for me. And thank you so much for asking this question. Thank you very much]
Words taken out of context are usually employed to create a pretext. This is what I see happening with these words of the Holy Father. He makes clear that one must distinguish between the “tendency” of being attracted to members of one’s own sex, which is not a sin in likely the vast majority of cases precisely because it is not chosen, and acting on that tendency. Acting on this tendency is a choice (unless one is being coerced- in which case it is not a sin). This is no scandal because, according to Church teaching, all choices that violate the virtue of chastity are objectively wrong, whether it takes the form of pre-marital or extra-marital sexual relations, solo sex, viewing pornography, or even a married couple using contraception. Now, whether such behavior can be imputed to a person as a sin depends on the formation of her/his conscience and how freely the behavior was chosen. This is boilerplate moral/pastoral theology, not anything new or provocative.



To pick one example, the case of contraception, the issue is that the consciences of married couples are not only unformed, but often malformed, with people often being taught and then reassured that they need not heed what Church teaches in this regard.

It is important that Pope Francis cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What does the Catechism say when it comes to homosexuality?
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, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." 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.

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.

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
To take more away from what Pope Francis said than what he said, especially when his intent is pretty clear, even including the fact that he used the word “gay” (he used this English word even when answering the question in Italian), is to do something he warned against in his speech to the CELAM Coordinating Committee- making the Gospel an ideology, that is, seeking to put the Gospel exclusively at the service of some political program, especially when it means twisting its meaning to achieve a desired end.

Let’s also not fail to note that the Holy Father is being authentically paternal (not paternalistic) when he encourages us to be merciful to each other as the Lord has been merciful to each of us, which means not going about inflicting what we imagine to be God’s punishment on each other, but helping and supporting one another in our pursuit sanctity. As we pray at Mass:

Lord Jesus Christ,
who said to your Apostles:
Peace I leave you, my peace I give you;
look not on our sins,
but on the faith of your Church,
and graciously grant her peace and unity
in accordance with your will
Who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

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