Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How the Pope's words may have lifted a burden - for some, a burden too heavy to carry.

"Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome."

"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." - Pope Francis on gay priests, and gay people.

One of my best friends actually teared up in reaction to the Holy Father's interview on the plane from Rio back to Rome.  He told me that what the Pope said made him feel accepted, included.  He said what many gay people said - that before this Pope even spoke the word 'gay', he always felt - even from me - that Catholics judged him unfavorably because of his sexual attraction.  I told him the Pope didn't actually change Church teaching by what he said ... yet my friend perceived it in a much more positive way...

The Pope actually affirmed Church teaching, making reference to the Catechism - but he spoke in more simple, understandable, personable terms - making some people uncomfortable, while making others feel worthwhile.

"The pope's conversational tone is a welcome change from the more dogmatic approach we're used to from members of the church hierarchy."

Michael Bayly, Minneapolis' local gay Catholic 'activist/dissenter' is more articulate in his reaction to the Pope's statement.  Though I disagree with Michael's perspective - especially as regards Pope Benedict and Church teaching on homosexuality, ordination of women, and so on, Michael poses an interesting contrast with Pope Francis' statement and what has been said in the past about 'gay' priests. 
"... according to media reports, the pope said the following in relation to homosexuality and the priesthood: 
If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?  
Many commentators are saying that this statement shifts the hierarchy's message not just on gays and the priesthood but on gay issues in general. For one thing, it's apparently the first documented use by a pope of the word "gay" – the term that gay people themselves most often use yet which some within the church view as implying "ideological commitments" at odds with being Catholic. Also, the pope's conversational tone is a welcome change from the more dogmatic approach we're used to from members of the church hierarchy.

 Do you remember how, about four or five years ago, there was a lot of talk about something called "spiritual paternity"? It was actually an idea, a theological concept, used to support the judgment that gay men and women are ontologically deficit in such a way that they cannot serve as priests.

Speaking in October 2008, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski of the Congregation for Catholic Education stated that "Homosexuals [and women] cannot be admitted to the priesthood because of the nature of priesthood in which a spiritual paternity is carried out. . . . When we ask why Christ reserved the priesthood to men, we speak of this spiritual paternity."

The cardinal's statements were in relation to a Vatican document on homosexuality and the priesthood, one that made it clear that homosexuals were barred from being priests by the "paternal" nature of priesthood and their inherent lack of "affective maturity."

 I recall how many people were deeply offended by the judgmental and insensitive tone of both the Vatican document and Cardinal Grocholewski's remarks on gay priests.

At a Vatican press conference at around the time of the release of the document, Grocholewski was asked if homosexuals committed to lifelong celibacy could be ordained. He said "no," adding that:
"The candidate does not necessarily have to practice homosexuality (to be excluded.) He can even be without sin. But if he has this deeply seated tendency, he cannot be admitted to priestly ministry precisely because of the nature of the priesthood, in which a spiritual paternity is carried out. Here we are not talking about whether he commits sins, but whether this deeply rooted tendency remains."

I don't know about you, but I look back on these statements and the idea of "spiritual paternity" and see a lot of judging going on in relation to gay men and the priesthood. - Wild Reed
To his credit, Michael concedes:
Pope Francis, unfortunately, isn't directly challenging these foundational notions of the hierarchy nor the 'official' teaching' that results from them. However, his words today to journalists traveling with him back to Rome from Rio de Janeiro are a step in the right direction and may well be paving the way for future developments.

While nothing Francis said suggested acceptance of what the hierarchy labels "homosexual acts," homosexual people, said the pope, should be treated with dignity and not be blackmailed or pressured because of their sexual orientation. - ibid

Church teaching cannot change on sexuality and marriage, so I think it is a false hope to expect any "future developments" in that direction.  What Michael recognizes however is the 'climate change' in how people are treated, or at least discussed.

Disclaimer:  I am not endorsing dissent.  My acceptance of, and fidelity to Catholic teaching is well documented on this blog.


  1. I remember when I first read Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski's statement that it was as though a part of me died inside. I prayed a lot about what he said in relationship to my own ongoing discernment regarding a priestly vocation. I was ready then (as now) to accept whatever the church's teaching is in regard to men with ssa and ordination. I wrote to a very faithful, traditional and wise priest and abbot (who I did not know personally but with whom I enjoyed correspondence). Here is some of what he wrote to me:

    "important factors in judging what a Cardinal may or may not have said include the context of his conversation. What a Cardinal says in a bar over a cappucino has a different weight from what a Cardinal says in an official document of the Holy See. Likewise, what a Cardinal in the dicastery for Eastern Churches says about the Doctrine of the Faith might be of no juridical weight. These things are the official position of the Church only when they are said by the right person in the right context in an official way."

    "My advice is that you continue to discern without labelling yourself and damning yourself on the strength of second-hand reports of news agencies. They all, even the Catholic ones, are given to putting a dramatic spin on what anyone says. That's their job, I suppose. But non in commotione Deus. If you decide to present yourself as a candidate for the priesthood or religious life, then trust that the Lord who works in you and in those whose task it is to discern will take every aspect of you into consideration and come to the right decision."

    "The documents and the experience of the Church are very helpful to those of us who have to make decisions in discerning a religious and/or priestly vocation in candidates. Such decisions are a complex affair, because human beings are complex. And so these help inform those of whose task it is to discern. When you are ill, you dont read up the medical text books and then decide you have only three weeks to live! You go to the doctor, whose expertise mixes with his experience and he takes the broad view of your symptoms and tries to remedy the illness. Its the same with us. you don't read the rule and then come and tell us you have a vocation, you bring yourself and subject yourself in all honesty and humility to the Lord and to the superiors, and be sure the Lord works through them. So fear not!"

    I was very edified and strengthened by his words.

    1. The document remains true and in effect.

  2. Why is it so many just assume Benedict was wrong when disallowing ssa men from the priesthood?

    1. You know of course I don't assume Benedict was wrong.

      The fact is, these documents and Pope Benedict have been ignored and continue to be ignored - or rather, used as a guide allowing for dispensations at will.

    2. I know, terry, I know.

  3. Jericho,

    You are correct, I believe. Fr. Z has written a good post discussing it here:


  4. "The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a "heterosexual" or a "homosexual" and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life." ~ Ratzinger, 1986

  5. and God's people said AMEN!


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.