Pope clarifies homosexuality and sin comments in note

The AP Interview Pope Francis Papacy

By Nicole Winfield

Pope Francis has clarified his recent comments about homosexuality and sin, saying he was merely referring to official Catholic moral teaching which labels any sexual act outside of marriage a sin. And in a note Friday, Francis recalled even that black-and-white teaching is subject to circumstances which might eliminate the sin altogether.

Francis first made the comments in an interview on January 24th with The Associated Press, in which he declared that laws criminalising homosexuality were “unjust” and that “being homosexual is not a crime”.

As he often does, Francis then imagined a conversation with someone who raised the matter of the church’s official teaching, which states that homosexual acts are sinful, or “intrinsically disordered”.

“Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime,” Francis said in the pretend conversation.

“It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another.”

His comments calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality were hailed by LGBTQ advocates as a milestone that would help end harassment and violence against LGBTQ persons.

But his reference to “sin” raised questions about whether he believed that merely being gay was itself a sin.

The Rev James Martin, an American Jesuit who runs the US-based Outreach ministry for LGBTQ Catholics, asked Francis for clarification and printed the pope’s handwritten response on the Outreach website late on Friday.

In his note, Francis reaffirmed that homosexuality “is not a crime”, and said he spoke out “in order to stress that criminalisation is neither good nor just”.

“When I said it is a sin, I was simply referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin,” Francis wrote in Spanish, underlining the final phrase.

But in a nod to his case-by-case approach to pastoral ministry, Francis noted even that teaching is subject to consideration of the circumstances, “which may decrease or eliminate fault”.

He acknowledged he could have been clearer in his comments to the AP. But he said he was using “natural and conversational language” in the interview that did not call for precise definitions.

“As you can see, I was repeating something in general. I should have said: ‘It is a sin, as is any sexual act outside of marriage.’ This is to speak of ‘the matter’ of sin, but we know well that Catholic morality not only takes into consideration the matter, but also evaluates freedom and intention; and this, for every kind of sin,” he said.

Some 67 countries or jurisdictions worldwide criminalise consensual same-sex sexual activity, 11 of which can or do impose the death penalty, according to The Human Dignity Trust, which works to end such laws.

Experts say even where the laws are not enforced, they contribute to harassment, stigmatisation and violence against LGBTQ people.

Catholic teaching forbids gay marriage, holding that the sacrament of marriage is a lifelong bond between a man and a woman. It reserves intercourse for married couples while forbidding artificial contraception.

In his decade-long pontificate, Francis has upheld that teaching but has made outreach to LGBTQ people a priority. He has stressed a more merciful approach to applying church doctrine, to accompany people rather than judge them.

Complete Article HERE!

It shouldn’t seem so surprising when the pope says being gay ‘isn’t a crime’

— A Catholic theologian explains

Pope Francis leads the second vespers service at St. Paul’s Basilica on Jan. 25, 2023, in Rome.

By

Once again, Pope Francis has called on Catholics to welcome and accept LGBTQ people.

“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” the pope said in an interview with The Associated Press on Jan. 24, 2023, adding, “let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.” He also called for the relaxation of laws around the world that target LGBTQ people.

Francis’ long history of making similar comments in support of LGBTQ people’s dignity, despite the church’s rejection of homosexuality, has provoked plenty of criticism from some Catholics. But I am a public theologian, and part of what interests me about this debate is that Francis’ inclusiveness is not actually radical. His remarks generally correspond to what the church teaches and calls on Catholics to do.

‘Who am I to judge?’

During the first year of Francis’ papacy, when asked about LGBTQ people, he famously replied, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” – setting the tone for what has become a pattern of inclusiveness.

He has given public support more than once to James Martin, a Jesuit priest whose efforts to build bridges between LGBTQ people and the Catholic Church have been a lightning rod for criticism. In remarks captured for a 2020 documentary, Francis expressed support for the legal protections that civil unions can provide for LGBTQ people.

And now come the newest remarks. In his recent interview, the pope said the church should oppose laws that criminalize homosexuality. “We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity,” he said, though he differentiated between “crimes” and actions that go against church teachings.

Compassion, not doctrinal change

The pope’s support for LGBTQ people’s civil rights does not change Catholic doctrine about marriage or sexuality. The church still teaches – and will certainly go on teaching – that any sexual relationship outside a marriage is wrong, and that marriage is between a man and a woman. It would be a mistake to conclude that Francis is suggesting any change in doctrine.

A crowd of people in jackets look up at a tall cross in front of them.
A rosary march in Warsaw in 2019 ended with a prayer apologizing to God for pride parades in Poland.

Rather, the pattern of his comments has been a way to express what the Catholic Church says about human dignity in response to rapidly changing attitudes toward the LGBTQ community across the past two decades. Francis is calling on Catholics to take note that they should be concerned about justice for all people.

The Catholic Church has condemned discrimination against LGBTQ people for many years, even while it describes homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered” in its catechism. Nevertheless, some bishops around the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality – which Francis acknowledged, saying they “have to have a process of conversion.”

The “law of love embraces the entire human family and knows no limits,” the Vatican office concerned with social issues said in a 2005 compilation of the church’s social thought.

In 2006, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recognized that LGBTQ people “have been, and often continue to be, objects of scorn, hatred, and even violence.” And expressing care for other human persons – “especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted” by the indifference or oppression of others – represents obligations for all Catholics to embrace.

As the Francis papacy now nears the end of its 10th year, it is becoming more and more common to hear Catholic leaders attempting to make LGBTQ people feel included in the church. Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich has called on pastors to “redouble our efforts to be creative and resilient in finding ways to welcome and encourage all LGBTQ people.” New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan has welcomed LGBTQ groups in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, against the wishes of many New York Catholics.

In this most recent interview, Francis emphasized that being LGBTQ is “a human condition,” calling Catholics to see other people less through the eyes of doctrine and more through the eyes of mercy.

A new ‘political reality’

The rapid change that has happened in prevailing social attitudes about the LGBTQ community in recent decades has been difficult to process for a church that has never reacted quickly. This is especially because the questions those developments raise touch on a gray area where moral teaching intersects with social realities outside the church.

For decades, church leaders have been working to reconcile the church with the modern world, and Francis is stepping in places where other Catholic bishops have already trodden.

In 2018, for example, German bishops reacting to the legalization of gay marriage acknowledged that acceptance of LGBTQ relationships is a new “political reality.”

Two same-sex couples stand in a church.
An LGBTQ couple embraces after a pastoral worker blesses them at a Catholic church in Germany, in defiance of practices approved by Rome.

There are signs that parts of the church are moving even more quickly. Catholics in Germany, in particular, have called for changes to church teaching, including permission for priests to bless same-sex couples and the ordination of married men.

The next chapter

But those actions are outliers. Francis has criticized the German calls for reform as “elitist” and ideological. When it comes to the civil rights of LGBTQ people, the pope is not changing church teaching, but describing it.

I believe the challenge the Vatican faces is to imagine the space that the church can occupy in this new reality, as it has had to do in the face of numerous social and political changes across centuries. But the imperative, as Francis suggests, is to serve justice and to seek justice for all people with mercy above all.

Catholics – including bishops, and even the pope – can think, and are thinking, imaginatively about that challenge.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Benedict Reaches from Beyond the Grave to Claim ‘Gay Clubs’ Exist in Priesthood

Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges the crowd during an audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Oct.24, 2007. A January 2022 report faulted his handling of several sex abuse cases.

Pope Benedict XVI may have died a month ago, but is reaching beyond the grave to shade Pope Francis, according to The Telegraph.

“In a blistering attack on the state of the Catholic Church under his successor’s papacy, Benedict, who died on Dec 31 at the age of 95, said that the vocational training of the next generation of priests is on the verge of ‘collapse.'”

He also said gay “clubs” operate openly in Catholic seminaries, the institutions that prepare men for the priesthood, and that some bishops allow trainee priests to watch pornographic films as an outlet for their sexual urges.

“Benedict gave instructions that the book, ‘What Christianity Is,’ should be published after his death. It is one of a handful of recent books by conservative Vatican figures which have poured scorn on the decade-old papacy of Francis, who was elected after his predecessor’s historic resignation in 2013,” The Telegraph said.

“The existence of ‘homosexual clubs’ is particularly prevalent in the US, Benedict said in his book, adding: ‘In several seminaries, homosexual clubs operate more or less openly.'”

Benedict also claimed his books were targeted as being “dangerously traditionalist” by more liberal elements in the Church.

“In not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books are considered unworthy for the priesthood. My books are concealed as dangerous literature and are read only in hiding.”

In October, Pope Francis spoke out against church members watching porn, including nuns. “He made the remarks in October, saying that indulging in porn is a danger to the soul and a way of succumbing to the malign influence of ‘the devil.'”

Complete Article HERE!

Church of England bishops refuse to back gay marriage

— The Church of England has been debating the issue for years

By Harry Farley

Church of England bishops have refused to back a change in teaching to allow priests to marry same-sex couples, sources have told BBC News.

They met on Tuesday to finalise their recommendations after five years of consultation and debate on the Church’s position on sexuality.

Their proposal will be debated at the Church’s equivalent of a parliament – the General Synod – next month.

BBC News spoke to several bishops present at the meeting who said the Church’s teaching that Holy Matrimony is only between one man and one woman would not change and would not be put to a vote.

But the Church confirmed “prayers of dedication, thanksgiving or for God’s blessing” on same-sex couples will be offered following a civil marriage or partnership.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in England and Wales since 2013. But when the law changed, the Church did not change its teaching.

In 2017, the Church of England began an extended consultation period called “Living in Love and Faith”.

In November last year, the Bishop of Oxford became the most senior Church of England bishop to publicly back a change in the Church’s teaching. Although a handful of others supported him, they remained in the minority.

The refusal to propose a vote on allowing same-sex marriage is likely to anger campaigners for change within the Church.

Some have already told BBC News they will ask the synod to strike out the bishops’ proposals next month.

‘Prayers for God’s blessing’

The bishops’ decision puts the Church of England at odds with its Anglican equivalent in Scotland, The Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, which both allow same-sex weddings.

The Anglican Church in Wales has provided an authorised service of blessing for gay couples but does not allow same-sex weddings in church.

English bishops will recommend that some “prayers for God’s blessing” for gay couples in civil marriages be adopted, the BBC expects.

A controversial church document from 1991 that says clergy in same-sex relationships must remain celibate will be scrapped. And the Church will also issue an apology for the way it has excluded LGBT+ people, BBC News was told by several bishops.

One liberal bishop present at the meeting said there had been “substantial progress”.

“It’s evolutionary,” they said. “It’s not the end of the road.”

A conservative bishop said: “We’re being honest about the fact we’re not of one mind in these issues. But we’re not going to give up walking together.”

‘Deep disappointment’

Charlie Bell, a young man in a priest's dog collar poses for a picture with his partner Piotr, who wears glasses
Charlie Bell (right) and his partner Piotr said they would continue to campaign for the Church to change its teaching on marriage

Charlie Bell, 33, and his partner Piotr Baczyk, 27, live in south east London, where Charlie is a priest. They have been waiting to marry until the church allows gay weddings.

He said they felt a “deep disappointment” that the bishops weren’t proposing a vote on same-sex marriages.

“It leaves same-sex couples in a bit of a limbo and also as second-class citizens,” he told BBC News.

“We’re still saying to gay couples that their relationships are less than relationships between people of opposite sexes.”

However, he said they would continue to campaign for the Church to change its teaching on marrying gay couples.

He said: “This isn’t over. If the bishops think this will resolve the current situation they are very much mistaken.”

The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev’d Stephen Cottrell, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme a friend who was gay had died before he was able to have his civil partnership acknowledged in any way by the Church.

“All that now changes,” he said. “For the first time, people in same-sex marriages, in civil partnerships, they can come to the Church, their relationships can be acknowledged, dedicated, they can receive God’s blessing.

“No, it’s not same-sex marriage, it’s not everything that everybody wants.”

But he said it was a “real step forward” for the Church.

“What I want to emphasise is that with these proposals, people who have entered into a same-sex marriage or who are in a civil partnership will be welcomed into the Church at a service of dedication and acknowledgment of that relationship,” he said. “That is a change from where we are at the moment.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev’d Justin Welby, said the position “reflects the diversity of views in the Church of England on questions of sexuality”.

He said: “I am under no illusions that what we are proposing today will appear to go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others, but it is my hope that what we have agreed will be received in a spirit of generosity, seeking the common good.

“Most of all I hope it can offer a way for the Church of England, publicly and unequivocally, to say to all Christians and especially LGBTQI+ people that you are welcome and a valued and precious part of the body of Christ.”

Complete Article HERE!

Gay Irish priest says Pope Benedict’s homophobic teachings had ‘devastating consequences’

‘He labelled us disordered in our nature and evil in our love’

The body of former Pope Benedict XVI lies in St Peter’s Basilica ahead of the funeral.

By Neil Fetherstonhaugh

A gay Irish priest has spoken out about the late Pope Benedict XVI and the “devastating consequences of his teachings”.

Bernárd Lynch published a letter via We Are Church Ireland in which he said Benedict had a “hostility” to LGBTQ+ people and “most significantly to those living and dying with HIV/AIDS”.

Pope Benedict XVI was head of the Catholic Church from April 19, 2005 until he became the first pope to resign in 600 years, on February 28, 2013.

Benedict died on Saturday, December 31, aged 95.

Ahead of his burial yesterday, Fr Lynch, who is known for his work with the LGBTQ+ community and people living with HIV/AIDS, said Benedict, at the height of the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s, “forced our communities out of Catholic Church property all over the world”.

“He labelled us disordered in our nature and evil in our love,” Lynch said of a letter Benedict wrote in October 1986 when he was known as Cardinal Ratzinger.

That letter was “misleadingly titled” The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, and was published with the blessing of then-pope John Paul II, Lynch said.

He said the letter led to people with HIV being “blamed by the church for their disease” and as a result “many ‘good Catholics’ took their own lives”.

Lynch said such actions had wider impacts on those advocating for legal work and housing protection for people living with HIV/AIDS who were told their efforts “would be met with violence”, he said.

Lynch said it ultimately led to violent attacks and also came as justification for Christian families that were rejecting their “dying gay sons”.

The church’s strict policy against condoms “caused untold numbers of deaths and vast needless suffering” too, he said.

“After what I can only call the soul murder of so many sisters and brothers, I pray Benedict rests in the arms of our loving and forgiving God.”

In the letter, he also condemned Benedict for “his irresponsible way of dealing with the sexual abuse crisis ravaging the church”, among other issues.

Lynch has previously spoken out against Benedict who, as pope, visited the UK in September 2010

Lynch joined a number speakers at a protest at Hyde Park Corner, in London, against the state funding of the trip, as well as Benedict’s teachings on homosexuality, abortion and contraception.

Fr. Bernárd Lynch was born in Ennis, Co Clare in 1947 and was ordained a priest in 1971. He went on to dedicate his life to advocating for the LGBTQ+ community in New York and London.

He rose to prominence during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and worked with communities directly affected by the crisis.

Lynch, who is now 75, also successfully campaigned for the introduction of non-discriminatory legislation in New York following the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic.

Lynch became the first Catholic priest in the world to have a civil partnership in 2006. He later married his long-term boyfriend Billy Desmond in 2017 following Ireland’s vote to legalise same-sex marriage in 2015.

Complete Article HERE!