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Pope Francis on Homosexuality & Consecrated Life or Priesthood

0002044The Pope’s Own Words:

The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates, if that is the case. We have to be exacting. In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the Church. This is something I am concerned about, because perhaps at one time it did not receive much attention.

We have to take great care during formation in the human and affective maturity. We have to seriously discern, and listen to the voice of experience that the Church also has. When care is not taken in discerning all of this, problems increase. As I said before, it can happen that at the time perhaps they didn’t exhibit that tendency, but later on it comes out. The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates, if that is the case.

I had a somewhat scandalized bishop here who told me that he had found out that in his diocese, a very large diocese, there were several homosexual priests and that he had to deal with all that, intervening, above all, in the formation process, to form a different group of clergy. It’s a reality we can’t deny. There is no lack of cases in the consecrated life either. A religious told me that, on a canonical visit to one of the provinces in his congregation, he was surprised. He saw that there were good young students and even some already professed religious who were gay. The religious wondered if it were an issue and asked me if there was something wrong with that. Francis said he was told by one religious superior that the issue was not “that serious, it’s just an expression of an affection.” That’s a mistake. It’s not just an expression of an affection. In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of affection. Therefore, the Church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life. The ministry or the consecrated life is not his place.

We have to urge homosexual priests, and men and women religious, to live celibacy with integrity, and above all, that they be impeccably responsible, trying to never scandalize either their communities or the faithful holy people of God by living a double life. It’s better for them to leave the ministry or the consecrated life rather than to live a double life. When there are candidates with neurosis, marked imbalances, difficult to channel not even with therapeutic help, they shouldn’t be accepted to either the priesthood or the religious life. They should be helped to take another direction, but they should not be abandoned. They should be guided, but they should not be admitted. Let us always bear in mind that they are persons who are going to live in the service of the Church, of the Christian community, of the people of God. Let’s not forget that perspective. We have to care for them so they are psychologically and affectively healthy.

Statements are taken from an interview with Pope Francis conducted by Fr. Fernando Prado, director of Claretian Publishing House.

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3 Responses

  1. Father Joe,

    Would you make a comment on the views of Fr. James Martin regarding homosexuality? I certainly understand the need for compassion as expressed in the Catechism; one of my old friends is gay and will always be a friend. I have only read short details of Fr. Martin’s writings but from them I cannot determine if he believes the Church should approve gay marriages, and of course the Catechism directs not to promote homosexual activity. I did send an email to Fr. Martin one time (no response) where I asked “if gender does not matter then why should number matter?” Of course if number does not matter either then we are open to polygamy of various formations.

    Could you comment on Fr. James Martin’s view of gay marriage? I have not taken a thorough research of his writings but from the brief postings I have read I am not sure where he stands. In general I do believe in a compassionate understanding of the difficulties one faces having gay tendencies, one of my old friends is gay, but I also take the teaching of the Catechism rejecting gay marriage as a firm teaching of the Church. I am not sure Fr. Martin does and Fr. Martin seems to have a position of advisement with Pope Francis.

    FATHER JOE:

    It has been argued to my satisfaction that Fr. James Martin does not think with the mind of the Church upon this matter. He would contend otherwise, quoting the universal catechism that those who regard themselves as homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” [CCC 2358]. This is as it should be but how would we parse the definition of discrimination? Too many priests of his sort would affirm both the disorientation and same-sex unions. It may be that many young men come to their priests wanting to hear the hard truth— that sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is always and everywhere the matter of mortal sin. The scandal here is that priests are summoned as prophetic voices for Christ to preach and teach the truth. The substitution of our own opinion or words for the often challenging Word of God leads the children of God astray.

    I do not believe we should have any part in attempting to normalize being gay. I also think it is problematical to ordain gay men, particularly those with past encounters. We should not fall prey to the false toleration of secular culture over the commission to be signs of contradiction in our world. We must respect the inherent dignity of persons even if we cannot always approve of everything that people do. A facet of the dilemma we face is that homosexuals are increasing making their sexual orientation into a primary factor of personal identity. This inadvertently impoverishes the depth of meaning that defines human persons. We are so much more than our sexual drives and romantic proclivities. The need for love, affection and friendship should not be limited to or strictly defined by genital activity. Sexual union should also always be in accord with the natural congress of a man and woman entitled to the marital act.

    Discernment of the moral character of the man or woman would neither turn a blind eye to sexual affections nor dismiss a history of genital activity; however, the measure of a person also includes many other pertinent attributes such as fidelity to promises, generosity of spirit, courage in keeping obligations and a willingness to sacrifice for others. My analysis as a Catholic priest is that Christian gay men and women are called by God to respond in a profound way with lives of prayer, loving service and perfect continence. The Gospel would never deny love to any child of God; however, we must distinguish what does and does not constitute genuine loving.

  2. Where does Pope Francis really stand on this issue? Does he agree with the Catechism? Pope Francis has already made on change to the Catechism, on Capital Punishment, so I expect he could make another change.

    I think the Church really needs to affirm its beliefs, especially the role of the Catechism. Obviously many Catholics, including Priests and Bishops, feel the Catechism should be change.

    I am especially dismayed that so called Catholic politicians with impunity openly promote abortion. I see abortion as the execution of a child, but it seems I am in the minority on that.

    FATHER JOE:

    It seems to me that the Holy Father is clear. It is best that homosexuals, particularly if they have been active, not enter holy orders. The Pope does not see homosexuality as a neutral matter. There is concurrence with the universal catechism that speaks about it as a disordered attraction.

    Sexual activity is the exclusive right of heterosexual spouses. We are all obliged to keep the sixth and ninth commandments. The commandment against adultery focuses upon illicit sexual activity. By extension it would also include general fornication, prostitution, pornography, homosexual acts, masturbation, orgies, rape, incest, pedophilia, pederasty, bestiality and necrophilia.

    I suspect that what muddied the waters were efforts to welcome homosexuals and those in invalid second marriages as children of the Church. Can we truly affirm the dignity of persons and sympathize with their struggles when the first words out of our mouths are those of condemnation and judgment. Might there be a better way? While critics of the Church are wrong to demand absolute acceptance of activity and states of life ruled as immoral or sinful from Scripture and Tradition; is there a praxis that might preserve their link to the faith community and the possibility of a healing or merciful accompaniment? I have been critical of the open table in regards to the reception of Holy Communion. If one is not spiritually disposed toward the Eucharist, then would we not be bringing down divine judgment upon the heads of such people? How can we give absolution to those in adulterous or intimate same-sex relationships if there is no firm purpose of amendment of life? This is where much of the debate is taking place.

    I am not sure if many clergy want changes in the catechism. I suspect that most of us want clarity and consistency. You mention the death penalty as a subject of change. Pope John Paul II was the first to amend the teaching in the catechism; arguing that it was unnecessary and that it further impeded our efforts to supplant a culture of death with the Gospel of Life. Pope Francis makes the case that there has been a doctrinal development on this matter similar to that which took place in the 1600’s in regards to the prohibition against slavery. We read:

    [CCC 2267] Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

    Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

    Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

    While this teaching still seems somewhat dependent upon the current status of world governments and modern culture, one must readily admit that the Church has increasingly raised her voice in defense of the dignity of persons and the sanctity of life. This does not mean that everyone is in sync with this evolution. However, given that the death sentence is today so rarely enacted, the issue is mute to the immediate lives of most people. It would be on an issue like abortion, where millions are annually threatened, that we would place the greater weight or imperative. Justice can be served even if a few guilty men and women should face incarceration instead of the death sentence. Nothing is really lost by this change or nod to mercy. Our tradition permitted the death penalty; but going back to Christ, it always had it critics.

    Back in the 1980’s the preposterous political argument was made that abortion could be justified as another form of capital punishment. Planned Parent and the National Abortion Rights League contended that the pregnancy was a threat to the woman and that the unborn child was an unjust aggressor. The argument was ridiculous and soon dropped. It is indeed a scandal that believers support the wholesale murder of unborn children. Note that at a time when errant clergy are condemned for not doing enough against the abuse of minors, a blind-eye is often turned to the enablers and agents for abortion— which is the ultimate abuse of a child.

  3. They would argue that they are already psychologically and affectively healthy; there is nothing wrong with them at all. How can you help someone who doesn’t believe needs to be helping. Speaking with young people; they don’t see anything wrong with being a homosexual; they can easily change or simply try out something different; to them its all part of growing up.

    FATHER JOE: The disconnect is very much a part of the problem. A secular and materialistic culture has done a more effective job than the Church in the formation of young people.

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