Monday, July 29, 2013

Media appears unaware that Pope Francis' statement on judging "gays" is nothing new

Today, headlines abounded throughout the news media that Pope Francis said he would not "judge" gay priests. From this article at, the Pope's expanded quote in question reads:
A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will -- well, who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn't this (homosexual) orientation -- we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby. (see bottom of post for links to full English translation of interview)
A BBC article, among others, expressed surprise at such a notion, stating: "The Pope's remarks are being seen as much more conciliatory than his predecessor's position on the issue."

Briefly, I'll point out the problem with the headlines that do not mention the person in question's pursuit of God and good will, which is different than the insinuation that the Pope doesn't judge the behavior of any "gay" person. Most headlines focus only on the first sentence, and only some articles expand on other parts of his statement.

But why would such a statement even be a headline? Even in the context of the Pope's comments, he refers to his comment being a reflection of the Catechism, which reads:
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
The media's reaction to Pope Francis' statement reveals a serious ignorance about Catholic teaching. Some stories insisted Pope Francis exhibited a new "tone," toward those with homosexual inclinations, attempting to contrast him with Pope Benedict XVI. Yet, in 2003, Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) provided almost the identical sentiment while citing the Catechism:
[A]ccording to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”. They are called, like other Christians, to live the virtue of chastity. (Cardinal Ratzinger, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 2003)
Years earlier, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a letter to bishops regarding the pastoral care of homosexual persons, in which he wrote:
The characteristic concern and good will exhibited by many clergy and religious in their pastoral care for homosexual persons is admirable, and, we hope, will not diminish. Such devoted ministers should have the confidence that they are faithfully following the will of the Lord by encouraging the homosexual person to lead a chaste life and by affirming that person's God-given dignity and worth. ... The God who is at once truth and love calls the Church to minister to every man, woman and child with the pastoral solicitude of our compassionate Lord. (Cardinal Ratzinger, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986)
As Pope Benedict, he said the same, again reflecting the basic Catechism teaching:
Deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are found in a number of men and women, are also objectively disordered and, for those same people, often constitute a trial. Such persons must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. They are called to fulfil God's will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter. (Pope Benedict XVI, Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies, 2005)
Both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict reflected the exact same sentiment as can be read in the Catechism. And Pope Benedict's words were even placed in official Church documents as compared to Pope Francis' comments off the cuff. Other statements by other bishops or Popes in history can be found to express a similar sentiment. Yet when Pope Francis articulated it recently, the media acted surprised. Where was the media in 1986 or 2005 to isolate a quote by Pope Benedict about gays stating, "Pope says gays worthy of love and dignity" or "Pope criticizes those who discriminate against gays." Why does the BBC, quoted above, think Pope Benedict's attitude was any different that Pope Francis'?

If the media had then desired to paint that particular caricature of Pope Benedict XVI, they could have done so, as they have with Pope Francis. But they were either negligent in recognizing Pope Benedict's words, or perhaps they consider the current social climate opportune to accent any comment that could be construed as favorable to a particular ideology, such as the current movement to certify "gay marriage" as a real institution. That could be why they did not isolate his sentence a moment later and come up with what would have been an accurate headline such as "Pope Francis condemns those who 'lobby' for homosexual behavior." Instead, Pope Francis may be seen as the media's utilitarian Rorschach blot from whom they have decided to draw whatever appearance they choose.

It is apparent in reading headlines such as the embarrassingly inaccurate one at the Huffington Post on this issue reading "Breakthrough: Pope OK with Gays," that some people interpret not "judging" in this context as "approval" of gay behavior.

It does not take much effort to read the next sentence in the Pope's statement that the Church's position is clarified in the Catechism. Quoted above is CCC#2358 on treating all persons with love, including those with homosexual tendencies. The preceding paragraph, CCC#2357 states: "[H]omosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. ... Under no circumstances can they be approved." So we have two teachings: homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered sins and we are still called to love those with homosexual tendencies. Also critical here is the following:
CCC#1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.
That's what the Catechism states. The Catechism is where Pope Francis referred those to understand the meaning of him not passing judgment on persons, even if one has judged those persons to have committed objectively mortal sins. It seems difficult for some in the media to understand that it is possible to love someone without approving of their every behavior. In fact, sometimes the loving response to another is to disapprove of their behavior. But perhaps this concept is alien to some persons, causing them to automatically misinterpret the Pope's meaning of not judging.

Just a final observation––I think the matter of this media frenzy today demonstrates the relevance of the Church. Even though comboxes or members of the media scoff at the Church, claiming her to be irrelevant, their ear remains turned even as they look the other way. It demonstrates the moral authority the Church still bears, even as there exists irrational cries to silence her. Many members of the media appear almost giddy that the Pope may have approved homosexual behavior (which he did not). Could there be a psychology, that though some people with their lips say they don't care what the Pope says, they subconsciously desire the support of the Pope because they recognize the moral authority the Church still bears? Even if the media is trying to "use" the Pope as utilitarian to advance a particular cause, in their abuse of the Pope's words, they show that they recognize the power in having the Church's voice on their side. Perhaps it is telling that this is at least the third time the media has misrepresented Pope Francis' words: on atheism, Purgatory, and now homosexual behavior.

See also:
What Pope Francis really said about gays - and no, it's not new by Fr. Jonathan Morris
7 things you need to know about what Pope Francis said about gays by Jimmy Akin
Added 8/5/13: Here is Zenit's English translation of the entire Pope Francis interview on the Brazil flight (part 1 and part 2)


No comments:

Post a Comment