lobby against the Church or a desire to use their ideological agenda to change the defined teachings of the Church in the areas of human sexuality and marriage often manipulate and sometimes deviously use Pope Francis' comment "Who am I to judge?" as a new benchmark for the Church's pastoral leadership in concrete areas of Catholic institutional life. Pope Francis is no one's dummy and his pastoral agenda is not about enabling sin or institutionalizing sin. His agenda is to call sinners to repentance by asking them to turn to God's mercy and God's grace to assist them in resisting the devil and the flesh:
Who Am I to Judge? The Pope, the Press, and the Predicament
Pope Francis pulled a surprise on reporters when he walked back to the press section of his Alitalia papal flight from Brazil and entered into an open press conference that lasted more than an hour. The Pope gave the press what Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton offered as presidents—a casual question and answer session that was on the record.
The biggest headline from the Pope’s remarks was not what he had to say about the scandals at the Vatican Bank, but what he said about homosexuality and, in particular, homosexuals in the priesthood. The key sentence in the Pope’s remarks is this: “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?”
The papal remarks put the international press into a frenzy. Headlines across the world announced a revolution in Roman Catholic moral teaching, a changed position on homosexuality, or at least an historic “new openness” on the issue of homosexuality.
Predictably, a closer look reveals a more complicated and far less revolutionary reality. Pope Francis did not change or modify one sentence of Catholic moral teaching. The official Catechism of the Catholic Church states that homosexuality is “objectively disordered.” The Catholic Church and this Catholic Pope are not reluctant to offer a moral judgment when it comes to homosexual behaviors.
The Catholic Church offers a long tradition of consistent moral judgment on the issue of homosexual acts, and the church declares them to be “objectively disordered” and sinful. That did not change.
So, what did the Pope say? In the context of his larger remarks on homosexuality and the priesthood, Francis was attempting to explain that a homosexual “lobby” within his church is entirely unacceptable. The Vatican has been reeling from a report issued under Pope Benedict XVI that identified a “gay lobby” with inordinate power and influence within the church. Francis told the reporters that he saw gay individuals as distinct from a gay lobby. “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.”
Only then did the Pope offer his most-quoted sentence: “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?”
The meaning of the Pope’s comments is essentially this: Homosexual acts, and even the homosexual “inclination,” are sinful and “objectively disordered.” Nevertheless, as the Catechism also states, homosexual persons are to be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” The Catechism explains that to live with a sexual inclination that is objectively disordered is “a trial.” The official Catholic moral judgment on this sexual sin is that a Catholic who struggles with homosexual inclinations is to remain chaste and celibate, looking to the Lord for help.
Within that context, Pope Francis’s remarks are not revolutionary in substance—not even close. But the Pope was clearly signaling a new mode of engagement on the issue. Benedict XVI had warned that the church should not ordain to the priesthood men who have “deep seated” homosexual inclinations. Does Francis’s new statement change that policy? Catholic officials doubt that any change is indicated. But Francis, like just about everyone else in the public eye, is trying to find a way to speak of homosexuality and homosexuals that reflects both the moral reality of homosexuality and the respect that all human beings are due.
Those who have no moral issue with homosexuality have no real problem in this situation. They just declare that homosexuality is perfectly normal and a moral non-issue. In that case, the only “sin” in view is the sin of believing that there is anything sinful about homosexuality. Thus, secular leaders and those who belong to liberal religious groups have no real problem. They can join the moral revolution and normalize homosexuality and they need not hold press conferences to explain their position.
The Pope is in a very different predicament, and so are evangelical Christians. The Pope did not signal in any way a revolution in Catholic moral teaching. The judgment on homosexuality within the Catholic tradition is consistent and very clear. At the same time, the Pope was trying to differentiate between homosexuality and persons struggling with homosexual inclinations. When the Pope spoke of a gay Catholic who “seeks the Lord” he was speaking of a gay person who is seeking to live in faithfulness to Catholic moral teaching.
In other words, the Pope was not talking about those who are involved in homosexual acts or homosexual relationships. He was seeking to speak with compassion about people made in the image of God who are struggling with faithfulness against a homosexual inclination. This explains his criticism of a “gay lobby” within his church. He acknowledged the fact that persons struggling with a homosexual inclination are in his church and in the priesthood. So long as they obey Catholic teaching and live in faithfulness, “who am I to judge that person?” he asked.
Evangelical Christians may be rightly impressed by the depth and consistency of Roman Catholic moral teachings on sexuality, but our authority is the Bible. And the Bible’s clear declaration of the sinfulness of homosexuality and the inviolate nature of marriage as a union of a man and a woman puts evangelicals in the same public predicament. We also must respect the humanity of those who struggle with homosexuality and accept them with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” At the same time, we must remain faithful to the clear teachings of Scripture on the nature of sin. Nothing less than the Gospel is at stake.
The Pope made a statement, the press announced a revolution, but even a day later it is clear that the predicament remains. Tim Padgett of TIME pointed to the essence of the predicament when he complained that the Pope “wasn’t exactly going out on a theological limb.” Padgett asserted, rightly enough, that the Pope’s position comes down to this: “The church may love the sinner, but it still hates the sin.”
That isn’t good enough for the new moral regime. Padgett says that the Pope still “demonizes” gays by believing and teaching that homosexual acts are sinful. No religious leader who holds to what Padgett calls the “love-the-sinner-but-hate-the-sin trope” is now to be taken seriously, he insists.
The Pope now finds himself locked in a particular predicament. We know what he wants to say, and we can hear him say it. He, in his own way, is trying to love the sinner as he hates the sin. That is now, we are told, still “demonizing.” Nothing but the moral normalization of homosexuality will do. The Pope was speaking of Catholics who endure what the Catechism calls a “trial” of faithfulness. The new moral regime decries any moral struggle as “demonization.” The Pope must go on to renounce Catholic moral teaching, or, in Padgett’s words, he should no longer be taken seriously. The Pope must lead “by reforming the doctrine that attacks gay people,” Padgett insists.
Evangelical Christians, passionate about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, faithful to the authority of the Bible, and eager to show love and respect for all those made in the image of God are in the same predicament. The global conversation about the Pope’s comments makes this very clear. Most of us have heard the same by now.
And yet, we have no choice but to be faithful to all that the Lord has commanded and taught, all that the Scripture teaches, and all that the Gospel demands.
Tim Padgett asserts that “the Pope’s remarks point up a dilemma for his and many other religious institutions today.” That, Mr. Padgett, is an understatement.
Not to derail this post by going off topic, but the new X-MEN movie opens this weekend. I bring this up because the director is Bryan Singer, who is currently going thru a scandal where two men have come forward to say Singer molested them repeatedly while they were under age. There is a lawsuit, and some minimal news coverage. But there are no advocacy groups organising boycots of the movie, no high profile lawyers going after the movie studios that Singer worked for. The media and Hollywood is not throwing Singer under the bus or turning him into a punch line for sarcastic and cynical jokes. The general public have no outcry to avoid the X-Men movie out of outrage for Singer's actions. So far, the Singer case is being treated in the exact opposite way the Catholic Church was treated for the alleged gay priests sex scandal. In fact, reports are the X-MEN movie may be the biggest hit of the year so far. People seem quite hypocritical when the bash the Church, but seem to be giving Singer a free pass.
Now that I see the politically correct parents doing the gay dance at Mt De Sales, I think we can all agree the horse is clearly out of the barn. Everybody on the inside knows, that at least in part, it was the active homosexuals in the Roman Curia, who played a major role in trying to destroy Pope Benedict's papacy. We are now in a war right here in the Savannah Diocese and most fools do not even realize what is happening.
Does the Church teach that the inclination is sinful? I thought it was acting on the inclination willfully. As for this problem, it seems that it has happened before in other ages with other civilizations. This is not so distressing for it happening, but for what it seems to signal about this stage in our own civilization.
Great article and explanation. I was hoping I could find something on your blog speaking on this very timely subject. Thank you!
RCG, I saw that in the article I posted and no the inclination or the orientation are not sinful, but could still be classified as disordered but in the context of Original Sin. People don't like having their sexuality labeled as disordered, but lust, whether it is heterosexual or homosexual is a moral disorder, who would argue with that? The gay lobby that Pope Francis does judge and without fear is when sin or disorders are promoted without any sense that we are sinners in need of God's mercy and the grace to turn away from the sin. Ideologies that promote sin and same sex marriage are the problem and bringing these ideologies to Catholic institutions and thinking that one has a right to do so.
The war, Jody, is the war of anti-Catholicism which at one time was a religious war, Christian Protestant denominations against the Catholic Church which for the most part Vatican II helped to end, but now a war of secular religion, a secular godless religion institutionalized in our government,that is battling orthodox Christianity, be it Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or Evangelical Protestantism, in the most unecumenical way possible.
Many Catholic leaders are oblivious to the gay lobby and the ideology that the gay lobby is trying to foist upon the Church, but I think we are waking up to it, especially here in Macon.
It may also help us to see who is for us and against us in upholding God's laws, accountability and reasonable justice. It will show us who wants true Catholic identity in the areas of sexuality and who simply wants to appease the ideologies that are against us because those promoting them are nice and competent in other areas.
Just more spin. It was, at the least, a terrible choice of words on the pope's part in a bad setting. At worst, it was a glimpse into a mindset that was, for whatever reason, not at all attuned to the fact that he is Vicar of Christ.
The best we can hope for is that the pope learned from the gaffe (if it was in fact a gaffe and not an indication that the pope is a relativist). The more that commentators try to explain the comment away in other fashions, the worse it looks. Just let it go.
Re the inclination versus the act, same answer. "Who am I to judge whether or not homosexual inclination is disordered? Who am I to judge whether or not the consequences of original sin are good? Who am I to judge whether concupiscence is OK?" Same difference.
But you, like the main line media that cherry picks what the Pope says and does not give the context, since they simply like soundbites to make their point and manipulate the truth, are doing the same.
Who am I to judge someone who sincerely seeks the Lord and tries to live as the Church teaches. He is speaking of priests with a same sex attraction who live heroic lives of moral virtue despite the challenges that face them--who am I to judge that person!
The Holy Father also does judge the homosexual lobby whether in the Vatican or elsewhere that tries to overthrow the Church's moral teachings. He judges this lobby for what it is, the smoke of Satan.
Anon, I wrote that post pretty confident in the answer, but knowing it is complex was hoping a good response would help provide more instruction for me.
The rest of your post is really just trolling and not even very good trolling. There is a place for provocation to stimulate thought but this one falls far short. I also admit there may be several posters that are making the same three or four points incessantly but it would seem that properly placed pride would inspire you to discriminate, if not identify, yourself. I propose you use the nom de cyber "Charlie Sierra".
It is what it is. Tortuous apologia seem tedious after repetition ad nauseam.
"Everybody on the inside knows, that at least in part, it was the active homosexuals in the Roman Curia, who played a major role in trying to destroy Pope Benedict's papacy."
Chiacchiere at its finest....
I stand by my prior statement. Whether or not it is taken out of context, it is a poor choice of words because 1) as Christians, we are called to judge certain things (just not the state of souls or the reasons for actions), and 2) the Holy Father (and again, the words on their face show this regardless of context) at the very least gives the impression that this is not so. Further, many people (I believe Fr. McDonald among them) have expressed concern that Francis so fas has not been sufficiently mindful of media scrutiny or the impact of his off-the-cuff statements. Yet when I do the same, I'm labeled a troll.
I have conceded that, putting it into context, this may be nothing more than poor word choice. But I contend that even the pope's strongest defenders find _something_ wrong with the statement, or else there wouldn't be such attention being paid to it, or attempts to explain/understand/figure out what it really meant. Even the MSM, as ignorant as it is of doctrine, realized that it had heard something that they could at least characterize as "juicy" or they wouldn't have reported it so widely. Maybe the problem is one of context, and maybe not. But if it weren't a problematical statement at some level--if on its face it didn't suggest that the pope has issues with Catholic doctrine--I submit that, to take the most proximate example, Father McDonald wouldn't even have felt the need to make this particular blog post.
Re "Who am I to judge someone who sincerely seeks the Lord and tries to live as the Church teaches"? But, Father, those aren't the words that the pope used. If I'm cherry picking, then you're setting up a straw man. Wouldn't you have preferred that the pope had chosen your words so we could have avoided this misunderstanding?
Is it alright to say "Love it or Leave it." about the Catholic Church?
Simplistic, but given that caveat, I think so. Much better than trying either to make the Church into something it isn't, or deluding yourself or others into thinking she is something she isn't, which modernists are wont to do.
While there is a war on secular religion against the Church orthodox, we all know that there is a powerful homosexual lobby within the Roman Curia. If anyone has ever read Goodbye, Good men, by Michael Rose, it should be obvious that that there is, at the very least, subtle homosexual promotion within parts of the American catholic Church. So, while we can blame the secular society for some of this, the fox has been in the Chicken House (Catholic Church) for a long time, and, when one does not consider how it's words can be taken out of context another chicken (soul) dies, when one speaks.
They strongly believe public opinion is behind them and this is the revolution the LGTB community has been seeking since the 60's. Benedict spoke of a smaller purer church. Now is exactly the time for this. We have to finally become the counter-culture. Making the circle bigger and the hugs longer to our dissenter friends leads to an empty church with a lot of happy people going to Hell.
Anon is right, context or not...even if what was said wasn't heterodox or heretical...definitely poor word choice which as Pope he should know that everything he says is under a microscope whether he likes it or not.
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