Another month, another papal interview, another spate of confusion. In a lengthy session with the Associated Press, Pope Francis made a series of puzzling and/or misleading statements about topics including homosexuality, priestly abuse, the Vatican’s policy toward China, and papal resignation.
In the AP’s lead story, the headline focused on the Pope’s statement: “Being homosexual isn’t a crime.” Most secular media outlets seemed to agree that this was the most noteworthy statement in the interview. But what the Pope said was not news.
Multiple layers of confusion
The Church has never taught that being homosexual — that is, feeling a physical attraction to members of the same sex — is wrong. Homosexual acts are morally wrong. Because he does not distinguish between the homosexual orientation and homosexual acts, his statement could be interpreted—and no doubt has been interpreted—as a break from the Church’s condemnation of homosexual acts.
Pope Francis seemed to make the appropriate distinction during the interview, but even on that point his statement was confusing:
It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.
The Church teaches that homosexual acts are sinful. Are they crimes? That is a question for secular governments — not the Church — to decide. It is quite possible that a gravely immoral act (say, abortion) could be legal in some societies, and a virtuous act (say, praying at an abortion clinic) could be defined as a crime. The criminal code set by a secular government does not change the Church’s moral teachings.
Part of the morass of confusion here may be attributable to the question posed to the Pope. According to the AP report, the Pontiff “criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as ‘unjust.’” Even here, however, things quickly become tangled, because it is difficult to imagine how a government could enforce a ban on homosexual orientation, except by prosecuting homosexual behavior. So we are back to the crucial distinction that the Pope missed: not between a sin and a crime, but between a temptation and a sin.
Still the overall thrust of the Pope’s remarks is clear, when he says that bishops who supported bans on homosexuality “have to have a process of conversion.” The AP story, suggesting that the Pope wants the Church to adopt a more welcoming attitude toward homosexuals, is accurate. What is not accurate is the Pope’s own treatment of the issue.
Passing the buck on abuse
Questioned about sexual abuse, Pope Francis confesses that he had to undergo a “conversion” on the issue, which happened after “the bomb went off” during his trip to Chile in 2018, and he was forced to acknowledge that he had been wrong to dismiss complaints. This is a startling admission: a recognition that for half of his pontificate to date, he had been willing to accept the findings of bishops who had protected the predators. It was only in 2018, the Pope says — five years after he ascended Peter’s throne and promised to hold prelates responsible — that “I saw the corruption of many bishops in this.”
A more aggressive interviewer might have pressed the Pope on his own track record, asking uncomfortable questions about his protection of the infamous Bishop Zanchetta, for example. But the AP interview zeroed in on another embarrassing case: that of Father Marko Ivan Rupnik. Here, too, the Pope’s response to questions was thoroughly confusing.
Father Rupnik was invited to preach a Lenten Retreat to the Roman Curia in 2020, after he was disciplined by his Jesuit superiors and after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) opened a penal process that ultimately led to his excommunication. The excommunication was lifted less than a month after it was decreed. It is difficult to understand how the Jesuit priest could have been invited to preach at the Vatican, or how his excommunication could have been lifted so quickly, without the approval of the Roman Pontiff. Yet Pope Francis says that he had “nothing to do with this” disciplinary case.
Or does he? On closer reading of the AP interview, it appears that the Pope is saying that he was not involved in a later CDF decision not to pursue another case against Father Rupnik, because the statute of limitations had expired. But as the interview continues, Pope Francis goes on to say that “he ‘always’ waives the statute of limitations for cases involving minors and vulnerable adults, but tends to insist on upholding traditional legal guarantees with cases involving others.” So was it the CDF that decided not to waive the statute of limitations in the Rupnik case? Or was that dicastery following the Pope’s policy?
And by the way, the original CDF case against Rupnik involved not only sexual abuse, but also the abuse of the confessional. It was the latter crime for which he was excommunicated. If the new complaint was similar, the Pope’s explanation for invoking the statute of limitations would be irrelevant.
Mixed messages on the Synodal Path
On the delicate question of the German bishops’ Synodal Path, and the danger of outright schism that it could provoke, Pope Francis was cautious, saying that “the German experience does not help.” He warned against the danger “that something very, very ideological trickles in.” However, rather than confronting the problem directly, and pointing out the issues on which the German bishops are calling for fundamental changes in Church teaching, the Pope downplayed the doctrinal problems. Instead he conveyed the impression that the German hierarchy is simply moving too fast.
“We must be patient, dialogue, and accompany these people on the real synodal path,” the Pope said. This approach is the best answer to the German bishops’ initiative, he explained, “so that it does not end badly in some way, but so is also integrated into the Church.” If the German bishops’ radical ideas could be “integrated into the Church” at a more moderate pace, nothing in the AP interview suggests that Pope Francis would object.
Full story by Phil Lawler at Catholic Culture.
I somehow think that Pope Francis does not have any intellectual depth, otherwise we wouldn’t not be so befuddled by his cryptic doctrinal epistles. He almost had us going with the “hate the sin, not the sinner” statement, but he then had to clarify that with more clarifications, i.e., people who criminalize homosexual acts are wrong. Tomorrow he will be clarifying that statement with more clarifications to clear everything up.
He was very clear.
Homosexual acts are sins.
Homosexual persons should not have to worry about persecution from their government.
“Still the overall thrust of the Pope’s remarks is clear, when he says that bishops who supported bans on homosexuality “have to have a process of conversion.” ”
I wonder what the African bishops mean by a ban on homosexuality. At the very least I would suppose they wish to prevent the homosexual indoctrination of children, drag shows, transgenderism and anything else associated with the baser side of homosexual culture. I don’t think the bishops mean they wish to ban the orientation since that seems an impossibility from the outset. I am rather certain they mean to ban homosexual acts. Such a stance would be squarely in line with Church teaching on the sinfulness of such acts. So it is a mystery to me why Pope Francis feels they need a conversion.
I think the problem is the person doing the interpretation/translation. If you listen in the original language it is clear
According to St. Thomas, the binding authority of the law descends from the Divine to the Civil, passing through the Natural. Breaking this necessary linkage doesn’t exonerate a perpetrator, it condemns him. What Francis suggests enables the end of civil society. By suggesting that private vice should be permitted, he advances societal decay. At best, his statement resounds of cognitive dissonance. That’s the “mystical” small t Truth that all modernists seem eager to embrace”: cognitive dissonance. Somehow “educated” people advance illogical things because God is the God of surprise; “He works in mysterious ways.” That justifies all types of non-sense. Hasn’t the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since and during V2, been the fall guy for all kinds of demonic infiltration in the church? I don’t think eternal judgement will go well for all those that blame God for ungodly and grotesque behavior.
“God is the God of surprises”…
What a surprise ! I just died and now I am in Hell forever !
The road to hell is lined with the skulls of Cardinals and Popes…
What does that mean?
Read the writings of St. John Chrysostom
You explained well what I couldn’t work out in my head. Thank you. I have not been keen on Pope Francis’ advancement of societal decay for some years but couldn’t explain the reason.
Living our lives in material wealth and comfort, it may be difficult for some of us to understand to whom Pope Francis is addressing his remarks about homosexuality. I believe he was speaking to repressive governments in Africa and Asia who have criminalized or are trying to criminalize homosexuality. The Church has always taught about the dignity and preciousness of the individual before God. The Pope was reaffirming this teaching. May God Bless Pope Francis.
People will hear what they want to hear. When in doubt check the catechism for what the Church teaches and believes.
Jimmy Chongs is dead-on right. Doesn’t anybody see the blatant Modernist heresy taking over?
According to the law, Abortion and homosexual acts are not crimes.
But abortion and homosexual acts according to the RCC’s catechism are so serious sins that they may lead the unrepentant sinners straight into Hell,
The Pope’s speech on the contrary gives a very misleading impression about the seriousness of these sins regarding the people who perform them, once their souls will be tried by the Court of God.
Only that matters, not the Pope’s confusing and useless chatters !
We really don’t need this confusion right now. This is really underlying the faithful right now and is not healthy. Francis is a weak pope and will bring around a lot of hurt and scandal to the faithful. Remember that confusion and hestitancy is what the devil uses and he is doing his best with Francis. Beats me why the cardinals would vote for a Jesuit. They are not the society they use to be and are full of bleeding heart liberals. We need a strong pope to kick the German bishops in the backside. They are going to cause our Church all kinds of suffering. Everyone seems to forget that Jesus is watching and will correct His Bride once again!
“The Church has never taught that being homosexual — that is, feeling a physical attraction to members of the same sex — is wrong.”
Not necessarily referring to the interview, but what are the differences between homosexual “orientation,” “temptation” and “sinful thoughts?”
Homosexual orientation is being predominantly sexually attracted to members of one’s own sex.
A temptation is a solicitation to sin, whether by persuasion or offering some pleasure. It may arise from the world, the flesh, or the devil. Temptation from the world is the attractiveness of bad example and the psychological pressure to conform. Temptations from the flesh are all the urges of concupiscence, whether carnal or spiritual, where man’s fallen nature has built-in tendencies to the seven capital sins. Demonic temptations arise from instigations of the evil spirit, whose method is to encourage every form of avarice or selfishness, in order to lead one to pride, and through pride to all other sins (Catholic Dictionary)
An impure thought can be a temptation to sin as it enters the mind. The impure thought only becomes sin when it is willed. As taught by the ninth Commandment, an impure thought is grave matter. Desiring that impure thought, willingly and knowingly, offends against love of neighbor and love of God. The same principles would apply to dreams, which are generally involuntary, not willed. (Catholic Exchange)
Agreed. But where do you put the boundaries among the three concepts, since they all stay within the mind? When does homosexual orientation become a temptation, or are they not the same? When does temptation become an impure thought and therefore a sin?
When it is willed.
Who are these stupid people who are always confused about what he’s saying? Pope Francis has always said he speaks in the context of church teaching. If you don’t understand the translation you are reading, read the catechism of the Catholic Church. All this annoying hand wringing is. Read your catechism already and stop whining. He’s spoken countless times about homosexuality. Yes it’s a sin, sex outside of marriage is a sin. Simply look up what he’s explained over and over.
@ Gabriel — That’s a lot of bovine scatology.
You should give Fr. James Martin a call.
Let’s pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts on them.
50 years ago, the ultimate dream was grooming children with Christian parents to engage in homosexual acts. It was a recurring and popular fantasy meme in L.A. gay bars. Along with referring to targeted male adolescents as “she.” I along with others were there. We were talked about as tender young meat to their lust.
Homosexual behavior should be a crime. It is always a sin.
A society that doesn’t keep homosexuality in check by criminalizing it is sowing the seeds of its own destruction. A society that celebrates homosexuality by codifying same sex unions or “marriage” and displaying gay pride flags and paraphernalia everywhere is already doomed.
Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t destroyed because of inhospitality to strangers. They were destroyed because of widespread homosexuality.
Look around at America and see the new Sodom and the new Gomorrah. Then realize what you need to do to keep your family safe.
Why were you in a bar as a teenager?
You are living proof that my side was proven correct about our suspicions of gay men; lesbians for whatever reason do not seem as predatory though I am sure some of them are. If we lived in a just society the “gay rights” movement would have been brutally crushed right from the beginning
I just signed a petition urging Salve Regina University, in Rhode Island, to cancel a talk to be given this week, by the “Rainbow Jesuit,” Fr. James Martin, S.J. He just got an award for his “gay” work from heretical, immoral, LGBT-promoting, New Ways Ministry.