Search

NewsNews

Comments: Go to comments

“It’s a Sin!” Pope Francis and the Vatican Are Now Completely Out of Touch

A new statement issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope Francis declares that the Church cannot bless same-sex couples

September 25, 2015: Pope Francis speaks at the United Nations General Assembly (UN Photo/Kim Haughton)

It's hard to reconcile the benign-seeming sentiments about respect and sensitivity that the Catholic Church espouses with a position that regards the relationships of "persons with homosexual inclinations" as "sinful." The Vatican's lofty blather notwithstanding, its position is just a further restatement of the old, disingenuous "hate the sin/love the sinner" cliché, which historically has served as justification for hating the "sin" and those who commit it. One might also note that a church that has protected pedophiles and other sexual predators―and has had to pay enormous sums to victims who sued it―might be a little more circumspect in what it says about the consensual sexual behavior of adults.

Oops, they did it again (apologies to Britney Spears).

Once again, the Vatican has denounced same-sex relations, this time in a new pronouncement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The CDF (formerly the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition) recently declared that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions because God “cannot bless sin.”

“It is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex,” according to the “Responsum ad dubiam” issued by the CDF.

“There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family,” the CDF declared.

Pope Francis approved the pronouncement ― “The Sovereign Pontiff Francis … was informed and gave his assent to the publication of the above-mentioned Responsum ad dubium.” The pope’s endorsement surprised many Catholics, LGBT and otherwise, because he’d offered a few comments that seemed to depart from the Church’s intransigence on homosexual behavior, which it defines as “intrinsically disordered.” In 2016, he commented, “If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?” the pope says. “I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized.”

Immagine ripresa dal video “Pride” di Claudio Napoli

Then, in October 2020, he appeared to support same-sex civil unions for LGBT couples. But the CDF document issued with his approval upholds the traditional position that such relationships are sinful and cannot be endorsed by Catholic clergy. The document includes some boilerplate language about the need to “welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations, and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with Church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness.” In 2003, the Vatican orthodoxy enforcers issued a similar decree, declaring that the Church’s “respect” for gay people “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

"Jesus loves gay"

“Jesus loves gay”

It’s hard to reconcile the benign-seeming sentiments about respect and sensitivity with a position that regards the relationships of “persons with homosexual inclinations” as “sinful.” The Vatican’s lofty blather notwithstanding, its position is just a further restatement of the old, disingenuous “hate the sin/love the sinner” cliché, which historically has served as justification for hating the “sin” and those who commit it.

One might also note that a church that has protected pedophiles and other sexual predators―and has had to pay enormous sums to victims who sued it―might be a little more circumspect in what it says about the consensual sexual behavior of adults.

Image from the  video “Pride” by  Claudio Napoli

The reaction to the CDF has been predictable: Church conservatives are happy, while others―gay, lesbian, transgender Catholics, and some clergy―are dismayed at best, and more often furious.

In Austria, a group of dissident Catholic priests known as the Pastors’ Initiative said they were “deeply appalled” by the new decree and would not follow it. “This is a return to times we had hoped with Pope Francis to get past,” the Austrian priests said in a statement. “We will, in solidarity with so many, not reject any loving couple in the future who asks to celebrate God’s blessing, which they experience every day, also in a worship service.”

The Bishop of Antwerp, Belgium, Johan Bonny, apologized for what he said was a “painful and incomprehensible” decision. Bonny, in an opinion article in the newspaper De Standaard, wrote that he feels “shame for my Church” and “intellectual and moral incomprehension” after Pope Francis approved the “negative” response to a question about whether Catholic clergy have the authority to bless same-sex unions.

“I want to apologize to all for whom this is painful and incomprehensible.” Bonny criticized the quality of the argument in the CDF statement. “Intellectually, this does not even reach the level of high school. These kinds of arguments, the logic, you see right through it. These days, you don’t convince anyone that way,” Bonny said. Sin, he wrote, “is one of the most difficult theological and moral categories to define, and one of the last to pin on people and their way of living together.”

LGBT people who are practicing Catholics were quick to denounce the CDF statement.

“We have been greeted with a lot of real hurt and disappointment and anger. A number of people have said this is the last straw for me,” says Marianne Duddy-Burke, the executive director of DignityUSA, an organization originally founded in 1969 by an Augustinian priest as a ministry for gay and lesbian Catholics. “Some people have felt very stunned as they compare this to the reports of Francis’ support for civil unions last fall and how hopeful that had made them feel. And they just don’t understand how all of this could be happening.”

La comunità LBGTQ sfila a New York (dal video “Pride” di Claudio Napoli)

“I’m particularly taken aback by the line saying that God does not and cannot bless sin, which seems sort of, gratuitous, gratuitously cruel. I’m not really terribly surprised. Pope Francis has made it clear that he does not believe that he can change church teaching on same-sex relationships and that he was not moving in that direction. And it’s been clear that the conversations, particularly among bishops, but also from other clergy and other parts of the church about blessing same-sex unions, doing something short of marriage to reflect current realities in the world and the membership of queer people in our church, those voices were growing.”

“I think that, unfortunately, the Vatican is so out of touch that the backlash against this letter and the strength of people’s reactions to it was a surprise to them. And now they’re scrambling to figure out what to do.” An article in the Jesuit journal, America cited unnamed “Vatican sources” who believe that the pope, in a March 22 speech, was “distancing himself from the CDF statement on same-sex unions.” There also has been speculation that Francis was “distracted” by his upcoming trip to Iraq and signed the document in haste.

“I think anybody who has had authority over anything knows that if your signature is on it, you have responsibility for ensuring that it meets your standards,” Duddy-Burke says. “So, that was not a tenable excuse.”

Dal video “Pride” di Claudio Napoli

Veteran gay journalist and activist and former Dignity member Andy Humm was much blunter when I spoke with him about the CDF statement and the pope’s involvement. Humm co-hosts the long-running cable TV show “Gay USA” and has reported on the Catholic Church for the program and print publications.

“It’s all bullshit. He’s the Pope, he can speak clearly and answer a very simple question― do you affirm gay love or do you condemn gay love? Just spit it out. What’s the problem? But with this crap about, ‘who am I to judge’…”

“It’s just cruelty,” he said. “I mean, think of the violence that it’s going to inspire just by saying, ‘Your love is no good.’ ‘You cannot bless sin.’ When you identify that for people, that these are the bad people, these are the people making the world bad with their sin, you are responsible for the violence that ensues. And yet before this, they were saying all these things like, ‘Oh, you should keep [gay] people in the parish.’ For what if you’re going to treat them like second-class people? Where’s the discernment? Where is the evidence that they have looked at how gay people live and love and are productive members of society? They have loving relationships, and they raise children very well, and all these kinds of things that would change their stupid positions?”

Pope Francis. (Illustration Antonella Martino)

The Pope has been even more hostile to transgender people, denouncing “gender ideology” as comparable to “the educational policies of Hitler” and the destructive potential of nuclear weapons.

I mentioned to Humm that when I have criticized the pope, Italian and Italian American Catholics, liberals and leftists, told me that Francis was a breath of fresh air in the Catholic Church. A prominent figure in Italian studies, who is a gay man, even insisted that Francis, with his criticisms of capitalism and support for environmentalism, was the “leader of the global Left.”

“Well, look, it is easy to cite some wonderful statements that Francis has made about environmentalism, against war, against selfishness, and all these kinds of things. P.S., he’s the Pope. How about making those things as big as sin as cock sucking? And where has he moved the needle on any of these things? They’re nice sentiments, but they’re just words. All they talk about is abortion and gay sex in terms of real condemnation.”…If anybody thought [the pope] was the least bit sympathetic to gay people, then why is it that in Catholic parishes that every time a gay person comes out, especially if they get married, they’re fired? Lay people, beloved lay people who were organists, teachers, fired, fired, fired, fired.”

The pope, he notes, never intercedes when these discriminatory acts occur because “the worst thing you can do in this church is love another person of the same sex. It is the worst thing you can do. You can vote for Trump. You can be a horrible, exploitative business person. None of these things exclude you from anything in the church.”

It is the Catholic Church, with its requirement that clergy be celibate, its all-male priesthood, and its insistence that gay sex is inherently sinful, that promotes a “disordered” ― or as Humm says, “infantile” ― sexuality.

“It’s all predicated on an all-male, self-perpetuating hierarchy, so a closeted hierarchy. They’re totally invested in the closet. They’re totally invested in being anti-gay and anti-woman.”

“You surely need women running the place and you wouldn’t have anywhere near the molestation that you have, and you need people with a mature sexuality, and you need married priests,” Humm says. He continues with, “I was a Catholic 40 years ago, I was in Dignity. I worked in that movement. I worked for reform in the church. It just didn’t work out.”

2016: in front of the US Supreme Court in support of gay marriage

Catholics who disagree with the Church’s positions on sexuality and gender should “take responsibility.” “Run your own church! All this crap with the molestations and no women priests― if you ask rank and file Catholics, most of them want to handle it very differently, but they don’t. They just keep coming to Mass, or they just drop out.”

Dropping out is precisely what I did. I left the Catholic Church behind many years ago; as a gay man, I saw no reason to belong to an organization that demonized people like me. And unlike some gay ex-Catholics who have become Episcopalians or embraced other faiths, I never felt the need to find another church. Atheism suits me just fine.

I’ll let “William,” a gay blogger, have the last word:

The Supreme Court decision prohibiting states from denying legal recognition to same-sex marriages is still the law of the land. All existing same-sex marriages are just as valid now as they were before the latest official Catholic effluvium on the topic. No self-respecting queer should have anything at all to do with any Christian institution anyway, least of all the Catholic Church, which led the way to hatred for Jews and queers after its establishment as the required religion of western Europe… The problem now is not any official effect of the Vatican’s hate statement, but the psychological effect on anyone who has the misfortune to be stuck with any emotional attachment to the Church.

 

 

Iscriviti alla nostra newsletter / Subscribe to our newsletter