So I’m late to this, but I wanted to get a few of my thoughts down on *paper* (cyberpaper?). In an interview the Pope gave on a plane, he was asked a question regarding a so-called gay lobby at the Vatican. So first thing I wondered is, what the heck is a gay lobby? This is a term being used by the Italian media to signify a supposed set of gay priests who may have influence in the Catholic Church as an entity. Apparently it stems from something vague the Pope said in June about gay influences in the church. I’m not gonna try and get at what he said then, because I’m more interested in what he’s just said. Here is the direct quote (translated from Italian):
When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept The Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency is not the problem. They are our brothers.
That is what he said and I left context in place as best I could. You would not believe how hard it was to find this quote. Most sources have shortened it to a soundbite: who am I to judge?
I am including a video of his remarks so you can see it for yourself. He mentions alot of things, and all in Italian with translation at the bottom of the screen.
As for what I think? It’s nice the Pope is making it clear he isn’t out to remove celibate gay priests. He is again symbolically reaching out in friendship and welcoming gay church membership. We can split hairs over the act itself later (which the church still considers a sin). At least it’s a start. And it’s a far cry from saying gay=pedophile or from Former Pope Benedict saying homosexuals have no business being priests. I’d also point out that sex outside marriage is also still a sin, as is divorce NOT via annulment. There are plenty of places where nobody is bothering shunning the people that commit these sins.
The Pope had some words about those folks who do good but aren’t Catholics. He cited a story from the new testament. In this story the disciples hear about a group doing good works. The disciples don’t know who these people are except that they aren’t them, so they tell them to stop. Jesus corrects them saying, ‘No let them do good. It’s ok.’ Pope Francis said that we must meet other people in our world who are doing good and not restrict it to Catholics. Then (this is huge) he said that all are redeemed by the blood of Christ- “even atheists”. Yeah, he really said atheists. He then reiterated that it’s up to all of us to do good together and not reject anyone doing good because Jesus died for all of us –everyone.
Since the pope delivered these remarks suggesting that atheists might obtain salvation, the Vatican has come out with a statement
changing clarifying what he said. Atheists, apparently, have salvation only if they choose to accept it. Otherwise they belong in hell. Dan and I have been wondering what the internal politics are like inside the Vatican and if perhaps the hierarchy isn’t as top-down as I thought. Is the pope being paralyzed by his own institution and the traditions therein?
I’m rather disappointed with the new Pope, Francis. The initial stories seemed encouraging; he did a foot-washing ceremony for women in prison one of whom was Muslim. That’s great seeing as it was always done traditionally with for Christian men. Then there was the fact that he paid his hotel bill after selection as Pope, which is something the Vatican would usually take care of. He was also careful in several instances to call himself Bishop of Rome rather than Pope. The significance in this is humility and also possibly an attempt to appeal to the Eastern Orthodox Church which (along with many Protestants) takes issue with the Papacy and the fact that it has grown so far beyond a simple bishopric.
At the time the new Pope was introduced I was happy with these details but also wondered if these tantalizing bits of progress weren’t possibly just for show while all eyes were on him. I felt I was probably being too cynical and decided to wait and see. Since then I’ve read that the Vatican has restated it’s chiding of that nuns group- you remember? A group of American nuns were called to visit the Vatican then ambushed with accusations that they were too focused on poverty and hunger and ignored such important issues as gay marriage and combatting abortion. This was all during the leadership of the last pope. Well apparently Pope Francis agrees.
Then recently he went ahead and excommunicated a priest in Brazil who spoke regarding homosexuality and open marriage and the possibility that these might be ok. Excommunication is something of a harsh punishment and seems overblown in this case. And it’s striking that other sins priests have committed (child abuse?) do not have excommunication as punishment and in fact are usually “punished” with a look the other way.
Of course I dunno why I’m surprised. The Catholic Church has never been about conversation between members and leadership. The hierarchy is just too tight. I guess I was hoping Pope Francis was ready to relax a bit and listen. These incidents suggest perhaps not. Whatever, I guess I’ll keep waiting to see what happens.