Pope Francis had an informal conversation with journalists aboard the plane. In the midst of a warm and even humorous dialogue, he expressed the teaching of the Catholic Church – and the Sacred Scripture – concerning mercy and forgiveness. He affirmed that those who struggle with same sex attraction should be treated with human dignity and given the respect due to all human persons. There is absolutely nothing new or newsworthy in these comments. The Pope indicated that if someone struggles with same sex attraction, including a priest, but “searches for the Lord and has good will”, he will not judge them. He will treat them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Some are suggesting that the new pope has announced that “gay is okay.” That was NOT what he was talking about.
Here is a fuller presentation of the exchange. Big hat tip to Salt and Light!
The Question to Pope Francis from Ilse, a journalist on the Papal flight
Ilse: I would like to ask permission to pose a rather delicate question. Another image that went around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca and the news about his personal life. I would like to know, your Holiness, what will be done about this question. How should one deal with this question and how does your Holiness wish to deal with the whole question of the gay lobby?
The Pope’s Answer
Regarding the matter of Monsignor Ricca, I did what Canon Law required and did the required investigation. And from the investigation, we did not find anything corresponding to the accusations against him. We found none of that. That is the answer. But I would like to add one more thing to this: I see that so many times in the Church, apart from this case and also in this case, one looks for the “sins of youth,” for example, is it not thus?, And then these things are published. These things are not crimes. The crimes are something else: child abuse is a crime. But sins, if a person, or secular priest or a nun, has committed a sin and then that person experienced conversion, the Lord forgives and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we go to confession and we truly say “I have sinned in this matter,” the Lord forgets and we do not have the right to not forget because we run the risk that the Lord will not forget our sins, eh? This is a danger. This is what is important: a theology of sin. So many times I think of St. Peter: he committed one of the worst sins denying Christ. And with this sin they made him Pope. We must think about fact often.
But returning to your question more concretely: in this case [Ricca] I did the required investigation and we found nothing. That is the first question. Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Agh… so much is written about the gay lobby. I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word gay. They say there are some gay people here. I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good. They are bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this point beautifully but says, wait a moment, how does it say, it says, these persons must never be marginalized and “they must be integrated into society.”
The problem is not that one has this tendency; no, we must be brothers, this is the first matter. There is another problem, another one: the problem is to form a lobby of those who have this tendency, a lobby of the greedy people, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. This is the most serious problem for me. And thank you so much for doing this question. Thank you very much!
The statement that same-sex attraction “is not the problem,” when understood correctly, is also nothing new. “The problem,” as Pope Francis seems to here be understanding it, is going beyond merely having a sinful tendency–a temptation to which one is subject.
Obviously, temptations are problem, but if we resist temptation we do not sin. “The problem,” on this understanding, is giving into the temptation and sinning or–worse–building an ideology around the sin and trying to advocate the sin.
Finally, the statement that “they’re our brothers” is also no novelty. Christians, like everyone, have struggled with every sort of temptation all through history.
Same-sex attraction is just one temptation among numerous others, and the fact that a person suffers from this temptation no more deprives him of the status of being a brother in Christ than any other temptation does.