When Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the close of his visit to Paraguay, in the presence of hundreds of thousands, to nobody’s surprise the country’s president, Horacio Cartes, an active Catholic, was seated in the front row.
This was the surprise: At President Cartes’ side sat Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner. She flew from Buenos Aires to attend the Mass.
Her present attention to the pope is interesting.
While she, too, is a Catholic, she championed legalized abortion and same-sex marriage, and the chief Catholic bishop in Argentina, then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, now Pope Francis, from the very beginning locked horns with her.
It was very public. She stopped attending functions where the cardinal was present, and it was all over the news. He never relented.
She relented — somewhat. When he was elected pope, she pocketed her pride and went to Rome to represent Argentina at his papal inaugural. Last spring, she returned to the Vatican to pay Pope Francis a formal visit. More recently, she went to Paraguay for his Mass.
She, however, is not the point. The point is that Cardinal Bergoglio, and later as Pope Francis, has been relentless in condemning same-sex marriage in no uncertain terms.
When Argentinians were debating whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage, Cardinal Bergoglio said:
“The identity of the family, and its survival, are in jeopardy here: father, mother and children ... a clear rejection of the law of God, engraved in our hearts ... Here, the envy of the devil, through which sin entered the world, also is present and deceitfully intends to destroy the image of God, man and woman, who receive the mandate to grow, multiply and conquer the earth. ... Let us not be naive ... it (same-sex marriage) is destructive of the plan of God ... a ‘move’ of the Father of Lies to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
Wow. Pretty tough.
The pope has repeated his opposition to same-sex marriage since becoming pontiff. Read his remarks when he visited the Philippines last winter. He made no qualification, and he was not hesitant.
Recently, I saw a statement by a Catholic priest maintaining that Pope Francis in effect tolerates homosexual activity and same-sex marriage. Again, look at the record. Nothing could be more ridiculous.
Used to support the argument that the pope is soft with regard to this matter is his comment to reporters when he was flying back to Rome after attending World Youth Day. On the flight, he said that he could not judge the moral culpability of persons with same-sex attractions.
Hello. The Church has never pronounced anyone as being personally in sin, even though it has condemned sinfulness all through the ages, beginning with the Lord as recorded in the Gospels.
With respect to same sex-marriage, a reality with which we Americans now must cope because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June and the increasingly strong popular opinion approving such a definition of marriage, ordinary Catholics will be asked to follow the Church. The Church has taught, and still teaches, that such unions are not in the best interests of society and upset the normal structure of families, and are contrary to God’s revelation.
The question is not if a person engaged in such a relationship is thereby personally a sinner. That is for God to judge. Using the pope’s remark, “Who am I to judge?” to imply that he tolerates same-sex marriage is off-base, and it utterly ignores where he stands.
Read the record.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s associate publisher.