Francis: ‘infiltrators’ use Church to peddle hate

— Francis spoke to a group of ten young people in June last year, in a filmed discussion released on 5 April.

The Pope: Answers is available on the streaming services Disney+, Hulu and Star+.

By Christopher Lamb

Those using the Bible to promote hate speech and exclude gay or transgender Catholics are “infiltrators” taking advantage of the Church to promote their ideologies, Pope Francis has told a group of young adults.

The 86-year-old pontiff made his comments during an emotional discussion with ten individuals aged between 20 and 25, including Catholics, non-believers and a Muslim.

In the filmed discussion, The Pope: Answers, Francis was not just asked questions but accepted challenges and rebukes, including over the Church’s handling of the clerical sexual abuse crisis.

On the Church’s approach to LGBTQ matters, Celia, a Spaniard who identifies as non-binary, asked the Pope what he thinks about “people or priests” who use the Bible to promote hate and exclusion.

“Those people are infiltrators,” he replied. “They are infiltrators who use the Church for their personal passions, for their personal narrowness. It’s one of the corruptions within the Church. Those narrow-minded ideologies.”

The Pope has faced deep hostility in some quarters for his refusal to take a “culture warrior” stance on sexual teaching. Throughout his pontificate, Francis has adopted a pastorally sensitive approach to LGBTQ Catholics, supported civil protections of same-sex couples and called for the de-criminalisation of homosexuality.

He has also publicly backed the ministry to LGBTQ people conducted by Fr James Martin SJ, who himself has faced sustained, at times vitriolic opposition to his work.

The Jesuit Pope told the young people that “deep within” those who promote hate are “severe inconsistencies” and that they judge other people due to their sinfulness.

“They judge others because they can’t atone for their own faults,” Francis said.

“In general, people who judge are inconsistent. There’s something within them. They feel liberated by judging others, when they should look inside at their own guilt.”

The Pope insisted that every person is a “child of God” and that when the Church stops welcoming everybody – “the blind, the deaf, the good, the bad” – it will “stop being the Church”.

The discussion, which was filmed in Rome in June 2022 and released on Disney+, Hulu and Star+ on 5 April, covered a range of topics. These include abortion, pornography, masturbation, feminism, migration, online dating, depression and the disconnect between the Church and young people.

The Pope was also asked whether he takes a salary or has a mobile phone, with Francis explaining why he has neither.

Francis, speaking in Spanish, said that the Church’s teaching on sex still needs to develop, saying that the “catechism regarding sex is still at a very early stage [‘in nappies’]. I think we Christians haven’t always had a mature catechism regarding sex.”

He emphasised: “Sex is one of the beautiful things God gave human beings. To express oneself sexually is something rich. Anything that diminishes a true sexual expression diminishes you as well, it renders you partial, and it diminishes that richness.”

One of the participants, Alessandra, told the Pope that she makes her living by posting pornographic content on social media. She was challenged by Maria, a practising Catholic, who said that pornography is harmful.

Francis responded: “Those who are addicted to pornography are like being addicted to a drug that keeps them at a level that does not let them grow.”

Quite early on in the discussion, a disagreement broke out over abortion. Milagros, a young woman from Argentina who teaches the Church’s catechism, said she supports women, whatever their choice. Francis said he tells priests to “be merciful, as Jesus is” when it comes to abortion, but hiring a “hitman” to solve a problem cannot solve the problem.

Some of the group supported Milagros and take issue with the Pope’s use of language. Others did not. Francis listened and thanked them for their sensitivity to the topic.

“A woman who has had an abortion cannot be left alone, we should stay with her. She made that decision. She had an abortion. We shouldn’t send her to hell all of a sudden or isolate her, no. We should stay by her side,” he said.

“But we should call a spade a spade: staying by her side is one thing, but justifying the act is something else.”

Later, a young man, Juan, talked about how he was abused when he was 11 years old by his teacher, a numerary of Opus Dei, in Bilbao, Spain.

Francis thanked Juan for coming forward with his story and pledged to have his case reviewed by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. The young man said the dicastery was presented with details but no further action was taken. The civil courts convicted the man who abused him but with a reduced sentence.

At this point, one participant rebuked the Pope for the Church’s handling of cases pointing out that Juan “had to come here so you would say that the issue would be solved” but asking about those not afforded that opportunity.

Finally, a woman who had been in formation to be a religious sister told the Pope that she was no longer a believer. She described her training as “abusive”, that she could not talk to her family and that her communications were monitored.

She added that the “wealth and power” of the Church in Rome was partly why she lapsed.

“The true Church is on the peripheries,” Francis replied. “In the centre, there are good people, holy people, but there is also much corruption, and that needs to be acknowledged.”

He added that what she said about the abuse of power in some religious orders is “true” and that he has had several of them inspected.

At the end of the discussion, Francis thanked the participants and said this kind of dialogue should be promoted as a “path of the Church”.

Complete Article HERE!

Reform and social justice

— 10 years of Pope Francis

Pope Francis reacts as he leaves at the end of a weekly general audience at St. Peter’s square in The Vatican.

During his decade as head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has reformed the government of the Vatican, worked for peace and reconciliation, and has taken action against clerical child abuse.

by Clément Melki

During his decade as head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has reformed the government of the Vatican, worked for peace and reconciliation, and has taken action against clerical child abuse.

Here are some of the 86-year-old’s main achievements ahead of the 10-year anniversary of his election on Monday.

Reform

From decentralising power, increasing transparency and providing greater roles for lay people and women, Francis has implemented fundamental reforms of the Roman Curia, the central government of the Holy See.

Despite internal opposition, the reforms were enshrined in a new constitution that came into force in 2022, reorganising the dicasteries (ministries) and putting at the heart of their mission the goal of spreading God’s message.

Francis particularly took aim at the murky, scandal-tainted finances of the Vatican, creating a special secretariat for the economy in 2014, clamping down on corruption and stepping up scrutiny of investments and the Vatican Bank, which led to the closure of 5,000 accounts.

However, the coronavirus pandemic hit the Vatican’s income, while his efforts were overshadowed by the trial of senior cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former close aide now accused of embezzlement in a scandal over a London property deal.

Battle against sex abuse 

From Ireland to Germany and the United States, dealing with the scandals over child sex abuse by Catholic priests has been one of the biggest challenges for the pope.

Initially, things did not go well, with a 2014 commission on protecting minors undermined by the resignations of two key members, while in 2018, his defence of a Chilean priest accused of covering up abuse sparked a backlash.

In the Chilean case, Pope Francis apologised, admitting “grave mistakes.”

Later that year, he stripped the cardinal’s title from abusive US priest Theodore McCarrick, and in 2019 removed his status as priest.

The pope created a commission on protecting minors that was later integrated into the Curia. And in 2019, he held an unprecedented summit which heard from victims, where he promised an “all-out battle” against clerical abuse.

Concrete changes followed, from opening up Vatican archives to the lay courts to making it compulsory to report suspicions of abuse and any attempts to cover it up to Church authorities.

However, anything said in the confessional box remains sacrosanct.

Diplomacy, Ukraine

During 40 visits overseas, the Argentine pontiff has given priority to smaller countries in eastern Europe and Africa.

A pacifist who routinely denounces the arms trade and defends the multilateral international order, Francis has also advocated dialogue with all faiths, especially Islam, notably in a trip to Iraq in 2021.

It was under his watch that the Vatican agreed in 2018 a historic but also controversial deal with the communist government in Beijing, on the appointment of bishops in China.

Diplomatic successes include mediating the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba in 2014.

However, the pope’s repeated calls for peace in Ukraine have so far come to nothing, while the conflict has undermined his efforts to improve ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Francis met with Russian Patriarch Kirill in 2016, the first such meeting since the schism in the Christian church in 1054, but their relationship has soured over Kirill’s strong support for Moscow.

He has, however, not travelled to his homeland of Argentina for a visit.

Social justice

The Jesuit pontiff has been a vocal campaigner for the environment and has repeatedly railed against capitalism and inequality.

With his groundbreaking 2015 encyclical Laudato Si, he urged the world to act quickly to tackle climate change, saying rich countries bear the most responsibility.

The son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, Francis has also criticised what he sees as global indifference to the plight of refugees, paying an early visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa, the landing point for thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

Complete Article HERE!

Praise, Protest for Pope Francis’ Outreach to LGBTQ Persons

Pope Francis greets the crowd after praying the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 8.

By Gina Christian

Pope Francis has evoked both praise and protest for his outreach to LGBTQ persons during his decade-long papacy, as he has offered warmth and welcome while upholding the Catholic Church’s teaching on human sexuality.

“My experience of Pope Francis has been hope-filled and also frustrating,” Ish Ruiz, a gay theologian and post-doctoral fellow in Catholic studies at Emory University, told OSV News.

Ruiz praised Pope Francis’ “breakthrough papacy,” which he said has helped remove barriers between the Catholic Church and LGBTQ persons.

At the same time, Ruiz told OSV News he “wishes the pope would go a little bit further with what he’s done” and “allow church doctrine to be transformed by the grace-filled witness” of LGBTQ persons.

Grace Doerfler, a graduate student in journalism at Stanford University, told OSV News that “as a lesbian Catholic, I think (Pope Francis is) really a pastor. … He has such an attitude of welcome, kindness and love, and I think his papacy has made a real difference in how I and other LGBTQ Catholics feel about the church, and about staying (in it).”

Yet Doerfler also said she “would love to see a church where I could have a church wedding someday, and where Catholic school teachers and other people in ministry could be openly gay and not lose jobs over it.”

Since the early days of his papacy, Pope Francis has offered an open hand to persons experiencing same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria, and recently condemned the criminalization of homosexuality in several parts of the world.

Asked by a reporter in 2013 about homosexual individuals among the clergy, the pope famously responded, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

For Matthew — now a married father of two in the St. Louis area who asked his last name be withheld for privacy — that reply coincided with a growing awareness that he was sensing homosexual inclinations, which along with homosexual acts are regarded as “disordered,” according to church teaching as outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“The 10-year anniversary of Pope Francis really resonates with me, because I was a freshman in college exactly when I started to realize my experience,” he told OSV News. “This 10-year journey is very much my timeline of my first (recognition) and then realizing the beautiful grace (of) the Lord in my life.”

While stressing he remains “respectful” of the pope, Matthew told OSV News he wanted to “be real” about how Pope Francis’ approach to the topic of homosexuality “has hindered me.”

Specifically, Matthew pointed to “ambiguity and lack of clarity” in reports of the pope’s occasional statements to media on the subject, which he told OSV News could be misconstrued as support for same-sex unions.

Evgeny Afineevsky’s 2020 documentary “Francesco” created an uproar when spliced clips from a 2019 interview with Mexican broadcaster Televisa appeared to show Pope Francis broadly endorsing legal protections for such civil unions, while defending church doctrine that made it “a contradiction to speak of homosexual marriage,” said the pope.

Subsequent media coverage showed the film had not included key contextual information and caveats made by the pope in addressing the topic with journalist Valentina Alazraki.

Struggles to accurately understand Pope Francis on the topic of homosexuality often result from a failure to appreciate the fullness of his pastoral outreach to LGBTQ persons, said Father Philip Bochanski, a priest of the Philadelphia Archdiocese and executive director of Courage International, a Catholic apostolate that supports same-sex attracted men and women in living chastely according to church teaching.

Pope Francis’ approach seeks “to receive the person and accompany them mercifully, and having heard and received their story, to orient them in the teaching of the church,” Father Bochanski told OSV News. “It would be too simplistic to say that this pope says, ‘homosexual acts are sinful’ or ‘who am I to judge?’ That’s overlooking much of what Pope Francis has said on this topic. He always refers people back to the catechism.”

In his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis summed up that perspective in two back-to-back passages, acknowledging the challenges same-sex attraction presents to both parents and children, and calling for “respectful pastoral guidance” while upholding church teaching that views same-sex unions as not “even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

Above all, “Pope Francis has, through words and gestures, helped to open up the conversation around the Catholic Church and LGBTQ people,” said Jesuit Father James Martin, a consultor to the Vatican Dicastery for Communication who ministers extensively to LGBTQ persons.

Admitting that “many LGBTQ people in the West tell me that they wish (Pope Francis) would ‘go further,’” Father Martin told OSV News the pope’s outreach has “marked a sea change in the church’s approach to this community.”

Father Martin pointed out Pope Francis has even appointed Juan Carlos Cruz, an openly gay man who advocates for fellow survivors of clergy sex abuse, to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

“I don’t think we can underestimate how much more welcome LGBTQ people — and their families — feel in their own church, thanks to Francis,” said Father Martin.

The pope sees not ideologies but “individual people, and he wants to make some kind of path for them to come closer to God,” Eve Tushnet, author of “Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith,” told OSV News.

In so doing, she added, Pope Francis provides a “desperately needed vision for some kind of good future” for LGBTQ persons in the church.

“The church has wisdom here,” said Tushnet. “The church gives guidance to shepherd these longings and desires, and a path by which they are made more chaste, and even more loving and giving, than your own desires.”

Complete Article HERE!

In accusing Cardinal McElroy of heresy, Bishop Paprocki was aiming higher

— The American episcopate’s anti-Francis faction takes it to a new level.

Cardinal Robert McElroy, from left, Pope Francis and Bishop Thomas Paprocki.

By

On Feb. 28, the Catholic bishop of Springfield, Illinois, Thomas Paprocki, accused the newest American cardinal, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, of heresy.

Not that Paprocki made so bold as to call out McElroy by name. In a Feb. 28 essay, “Imagining a Heretical Cardinal,” on the website of the magazine First Things, the bishop began by quoting directly from an article McElroy had published in the Jesuit magazine America a month earlier:

Imagine if a cardinal of the Catholic Church were to publish an article in which he condemned “a theology of eucharistic coherence that multiplies barriers to the grace and gift of the eucharist” and stated that “unworthiness cannot be the prism of accompaniment for disciples of the God of grace and mercy.”

Anyone who plugged the quotes into a search engine did not have to imagine for long.

Newly created Cardinal Robert W. McElroy, bishop of San Diego, attends a reception for relatives and friends in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on Aug. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Newly created Cardinal Robert W. McElroy, bishop of San Diego, attends a reception for relatives and friends in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on Aug. 27, 2022.

Paprocki then proceeded to a second imaginary: “Or what if a cardinal of the Catholic Church were to state publicly that homosexual acts are not sinful and same-sex unions should be blessed by the Church?”

Public statements along those lines have been made by Luxembourg Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, not McElroy — though a reader might think otherwise. In his America article, McElroy concerned himself with the question of whether access to the Eucharist should be permitted to the divorced and remarried and to sexually active LGBT people.

Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki in 2018. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois
Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki in 2018.

McElroy took the position that members of both groups should be so permitted for the reasons of “eucharistic conherence” that Paprocki quoted in his response. The Springfield bishop pronounced the remarks heretical and proceeded to cite canon law indicating that those holding heretical views are automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

But, Paprocki continued, since a cardinal can only be removed from office by the pope, one who is automatically excommunicated (i.e., McElroy) might get to vote for the next pope. “We must pray,” Paprocki piously concluded, “that the Holy Spirit will not let this happen, and will inspire anyone who espouses heretical views to renounce them and seek reconciliation with our Lord and his Church.”

I guess Paprocki figured there’s no way the present pope would himself avert the danger by removing the heretical cardinal in question from office. And with good reason.

After all, in his 2013 apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis wrote:

The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.

In his 2016 exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (Love’s Happiness), Francis declared that it “can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.” And that “science needs to be better incorporated into the Church’s praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage.”

And: “At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity. We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance.”

Pope Francis speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Vatican, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Francis acknowledged that Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against the LGBTQ community, and he himself referred to homosexuality in terms of "sin." But he attributed attitudes to culture backgrounds, and said bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Vatican, Jan. 24, 2023.

Did I mention that, to the consternation of some conservative prelates and laity, the pope in fact did, in Chapter 8 of “Amoris Laetitia,” give bishops the power to grant divorced and remarried persons access to the Eucharist?

No one should have the slightest doubt that the McElroy remarks condemned as heresy by Paprocki convey precisely Francis’ magisterial teaching — indeed, that the pope’s injunction to “make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity” is clearly mirrored in McElroy’s advocacy of a “radical inclusion” of some people whose sexual activity outside of church-sanctioned marriage violates church doctrine.

If McElroy pushed the envelope, it was by extending the pope’s principles to sexually active LGBTQ persons. But that’s not where Paprocki brought his hammer down. He brought it down on the principles themselves — effectively applying the same automatic excommunication he assigned to McElroy to Francis himself.

It’s hard to imagine a bishop affronting any other pope in this way with impunity.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope intervenes again to restrict celebration of Latin Mass

— Pope Francis has intervened for the third time to crack down on the celebration of the old Latin Mass, a sign of continued friction with Catholic traditionalists.

Cardinal Arthur Roche walks after receiving the red three-cornered biretta hat from Pope Francis during a consistory inside St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, on Aug. 27, 2022. Pope Francis approved a new decree published Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, repeating that the Holy See must sign off on bishops’ decisions to designate new parish churches for the Latin Mass or to let newly ordained priests celebrate the old rite. The decree states that the Vatican’s liturgy office, headed by British Cardinal Arthur Roche, is responsible for granting such approvals.

By NICOLE WINFIELD

Francis reasserted in a new legal decree published Tuesday that the Holy See must approve new celebrations of the old rite by signing off on bishops’ decisions to designate additional parish churches for the Latin Mass or to let newly ordained priests celebrate it.

The decree states that the Vatican’s liturgy office, headed by British Cardinal Arthur Roche, is responsible for evaluating such requests on behalf of the Holy See and that all requests from bishops must go there.

For weeks, Catholic traditionalist blogs and websites have reported a further crackdown on the old Latin Mass was in the works, following Francis’ remarkable decision in 2021 to reimpose restrictions on its celebration that were relaxed in 2007 by then-Pope Benedict XVI.

Francis said at the time that he was acting to preserve church unity, saying the spread of the Tridentine Mass had become a source of division and been exploited by Catholics opposed to the Second Vatican Council, the 1960s meetings that modernized the church and its liturgy.

Roche’s office followed up a few months later to double down on the Vatican’s position with a series of questions and answers that made clear that celebrating some sacraments according to the old rite was forbidden.

The new decree doesn’t restrict the celebration further but merely repeats what was previously declared. Its insistence on Roche’s authority in the process appeared aimed primarily at quashing traditionalist claims that the cardinal had exceeded his mandate. Francis signed off on the decree Monday during a private audience with Roche.

Francis’ crackdown on the old Mass outraged his conservative and traditionalist critics, many of whom have also attacked him for his focus on the environment, social justice and migrants.

Francis says he preaches the Gospel and what Jesus taught, and has defended the restrictions by saying they actually reflect Benedict’s original goal while curbing the way his 2007 concession was exploited for ideological ends.

Complete Article HERE!