A reader of Our Sunday Visitor recently called to complain that, judging from what Pope Francis told reporters while flying back from Rio de Janeiro to Rome July 28, the pope is caving into the pressure to accept same-sex marriage.
Actually, Pope Francis rather recently took a strong stand against legalizing gay marriage.
When he was elected to the papacy March 13, it was news when Argentine President Cristina Kirchner sent him her congratulations and stated that she would represent Argentina at his installation. She indeed came to Rome as head of the official delegation from her, and the new pope’s homeland.
What made Kirchner’s reaction newsworthy was the sharp dispute between her and then- Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, speaking on behalf of the Argentine bishops, when the country was considering legalizing gay marriage.
The future pope left no one in a moment’s doubt as to what he thought. He was utterly and absolutely opposed — on traditional moral grounds. He was not timid. “At stake is the total rejection of God’s law as engraved in our hearts,” he said, adding that “this is not simply a political struggle. It is an attempt to destroy God’s plan.”
The Argentine parliament, presumably composed of a great majority of members who identify themselves as Catholics since most Argentinians say that they are Catholics, passed the law recognizing same-sex marriage. The president, a Catholic, favored the idea.
All this occurred in 2010, but the world press remembered the incident when Cardinal Bergoglio was elected pope.
Check the record. On the flight from Rio, the pope was not talking about marriage but about priests with homosexual attractions. He is firmly committed to celibacy. As a Jesuit, he has taken a personal vow of total, lifelong chastity. He hardly is in favor of priests who are not faithful in this regard, nor does he look the other way.
He was referring to priests who, despite an attraction to males, try to be chaste. He said that they are attempting to be true to what is expected of them, and if they are, how can he judge them as unfaithful?
The question came in the context of asking him about a clique of homosexual priests who, according to gossip, run the Vatican. Given the numbers of priests working at the Vatican, and the best drawn statistics of same-sex attraction among humans, Pope Francis surely knows that some of these priests in the Curia have homosexual tendencies. He expects them to be faithful to the requirements of celibacy, and he believes that most of them are.
Running through this gossip is the hunch, unsupported by science, that homosexuality is more apt to lead to pedophilia. So, homosexual priests in the Vatican protected pedophile priests. The popes repeatedly have spoken and acted against homosexual activity and sexual abuse of youths, or anyone, for that matter.
Pope Francis stood solidly on Church tradition when he called for respect for people with same-sex attractions. An old adage has the Church as opposed to sin, but never giving up on the sinner. Being tempted does not constitute sin. No human being is outside the range of human dignity. Every person must respect everyone else as a human being, even if another’s action is deplorable. It is not a matter of toleration or acceptance.
The pope’s remarks were often reported incorrectly. They usually quoted him accurately, but generally they went too far in pinning implications on the remarks that he never said or meant.
People with same-sex attractions exist. They are subject to the moral law as much as anyone else. Period.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s associate publisher.