What Did the Pope Really Say about Gays in the Priesthood?

Very few popes give off-the-cuff interviews to reporters to begin with, and even less joke and have fun with the reporters. So, when Pope Francis did just that as he returned from World Youth Day, it was a stunner. It wasn’t so much that he said he “does not judge gays”—after all, the meaning itself can be taken as solid Catholic doctrine, that we are never to judge the person, only the sin—but the fact that, in context, there was also the possibility he was saying something far different.

Could his words be taken as suggesting a reversal of the teaching of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI who stated in 2005 that homosexuality was  “a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil” and  an “objective disorder”—and  who ruled that men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” should not become priests?

The “progressive” media certainly hoped so.  The New York Times suggested that the Pope’s words meant that “he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation” and that the he struck “a more compassionate tone than his predecessor” merely by using the term “gay” instead of homosexual.

Thomas Reese of the National Catholic Reporter went further and stated that in the interview “Pope Francis made clear that being gay is not an impediment for ordination.”

But I will argue that while the Pope was speaking in his own characteristic way, he agreed completely with Pope Benedict XVI’s teachings and decisions on homosexuality and the priesthood.

A large part of the problem in figuring out the Pope’s meaning is due to the nuance of language and the wishful interpretations of those, like the New York Times and the National Catholic Reporter, who wish to see homosexuality accepted in the Church and the priesthood.

Then the Pope got tangled up in discussing the related but separate issue of “a gay lobby,” which is a grave moral and political problem in the Vatican bureaucracy.

Media reports of the Pope’s words in his interview on this issue were consistent.  The Pope said that one must “distinguish between a person who is gay and someone who makes a gay lobby.”  Pope Francis said that while  “A gay lobby isn’t good, … A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will—well, who am I to judge him?” He said that,  “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society.” So according to Pope Francis “The problem isn’t this (homosexual) orientation” but rather “the problem is lobbying for … this orientation.”

But note that the Pope is speaking about  “A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will,” not a gay who dissents from the teachings of the Church and Sacred Scripture on homosexuality.

Secondly, the Pope says that the problem  “isn’t this (homosexual) orientation” but “lobbying … for this orientation.” Clearly, the Pope is not only opposed to homosexual acts but he is also against encouraging or promoting this homosexual orientation. He gave no indication he believes anything other than what Pope Benedict taught that the “orientation” toward homosexuality is an “intrinsic disorder.” But true to his pastoral gentleness, and in the relaxed setting of a spontaneous interview, he was emphasizing the fact that we must help the “gays” who “are seeking God and have “good will” by “integrating” them into “society,” including the Catholic Community.

But did Pope Francis say anything to indicate that gays could enter the priesthood?”

Again, context is everything. The pope was being asked about his appointment of a priest, Msgr. Battista Ricca, to a Vatican Bank position even after he heard of allegations about Msgr. Ricca’s previous homosexual lifestyle.

In his press conference, Pope Francis explained his decision to give the Vatican Bank job to Msgr. Ricca by stating: “I did what canon law said must be done, I ordered an ‘investigation brevia,’ and this investigation found nothing.”

Note: “The investigation found nothing.”

The mere fact that the pope ordered an investigation into Msgr. Ricca’s alleged homosexuality prior to the appointment shows he was concerned about appointing a homosexual.

Then, the pope reverts to his pastoral teaching mode, and here’s where I think he was misunderstood: “At times in the church, outside this case, but also in this one, we go searching for the sins—of one’s youth, for example—for publicity. I’m not talking about crimes here—the abuse of a minor is a crime—but of sins.”

I think it very likely this pope, who has proven to be so powerfully present to every individual he sees directly before him, was looking at these worldly press people and thinking of them and their souls when he went on to say: “But if a person, whether a layperson, priest or sister, goes to confession and converts, the Lord forgives. And when the Lord forgives, he forgets. This is important,” said the Pope, “because those who want the Lord to forget their sins should forget those of others.”

Is it possible the Pope is also here suggesting that it might be permissible for a priest to remain in the priesthood as long as he has overcome his homosexuality and his history does not involve a sin or crime against the young? We do not know his mind on that yet. But in this interview Pope Francis certainly did not say anything contrary to Pope Benedict’s assertion in his recent book, Light of the World, that “homosexuality is incompatible with the priesthood.”

I still believe this was a case of a new pope, who hates artifice and who has the tendency to speak spontaneously from his heart, who was trying to explain to a skeptical, worldly press that every human being, no matter what their past sins or orientation, can seek God.

Our best guide is still the account of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. Jesus protected the woman from being stoned to death, but He did not protect her sin. I believe that was the distinction Pope Francis was reaching for. Let’s give him a chance to clarify.

Finally, what about this business of a “gay lobby” operating in the Vatican and Pope Francis’ quip on his way back from WYD: “Quite a lot has been published about the gay lobby. I have yet to find someone who introduces himself at the Vatican, with a ‘gay ID card.'”

No one, especially the Pope, would deny that this Vatican “gay lobby” exists today. Even the National Catholic Reporter admits this.

But, in order to understand the most probable meaning of the quip by Pope Francis one must understand the meaning of “gay lobby.”  The word lobby in Italian (the Italians are driving this “gay lobby” business) has a more negative meaning than the meaning of lobby in America. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf  notes this point when defining this specific meaning of lobby:  “In short it means sinister people who maneuver in the dark and who have leverage enough to make things happen or to prevent them from happening.”

I believe the Pope was having fun with the media. If there is a “gay lobby” they would hardly be so sincere as to “come out” and indicate this on their Vatican I.D.  So how can I talk about them. I like this Pope!

Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M. Cap


Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M.Cap., is spiritual director and chaplain for Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity in Denver, as well as being one of the spiritual directors for the Missionaries of Charity in the western United States. He was director of prison ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, from 1999 to 2010; a chaplain for Missionaries of Charity at their now-closed AIDS hospice, Seton House, and at Gift of Mary homeless shelter for women in Denver from 1989 to 2008. His articles have been published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, The Catholic Faith, Soul Magazine, Pastoral Life, and The Priest. He has also made three series for Mother Angelica's EWTN: “Crucial Questions,” “Catholic Answers,” and “What Did Vatican II Really Teach?”

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    #1 I, too, like this Pope. But the papacy is not subject to opinion polls – at least for us Catholics. It is irrelevant whether I “like” this Pope or not.
    #2 The Pope needs to realize that he is the Pope. Whether or not he carries his own bags, is not the matter. When he speaks, one billion Catholics (and a few others) need to sit up and take note. For that reason, he needs to weigh very carefully every comment he makes – especially when it comes down to matters of morality. Let’s remember, too, that the only time the Pope speaks infallibly is on matters of faith and morals (and, no, I am NOT saying that the Pope was speaking infallibly on the plane).
    #3 “The Pope was having fun with the media.” Sorry, but we have far too many comedians who hold the power strings in today’s world. We don’t need more comedians like Clinton and Obama. We expect our Popes to be friendly but not comedians.
    #4 The Pope referred to a “gay person who is seeking God.” Sorry, Holy Father but there is no entity as a “gay person.” There are people who suffer with same sex attraction and people who engage in sex with members of their own gender, but no one’s personhood (as Catholics understand the meaning of person) is defined by such.
    #5 The Holy Father discussed the case of Msgr. Ricci. Press conferences aboard return flights from Rio with a hostile press corps are NOT the places the discuss the moral issues of any particular person. I would not, as a member of the clergy, welcome the Holy Father discussing my moral state or any past investigation of my actions in such a forum. Msgr Ricci is far more important in the Church than I which is all the more reason why the back of a plane should not be the occasion of discussing such a matter.
    #6 The very fact that yet another interpretation and explanation of the Pope’s remarks is offered suggests that his press conference was ill-conceived. Proof of this is the fact that I have yet to hear anyone in the media pronounce these words: “Oh, now i understand clearly exactly what the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality is and WHY they teach that; now we get it.”

    Please no repeat performances like this.

    • Bob

      #6 is spot on, Deacon. The secular media is looking to parse anything the Pope says and twist it towards a pro-gay agenda. Watching MSNBC and CBS that is exactly what they were doing. Let’s be clear: the vast majority of the media have no interest in understanding Catholic teaching but only look to attack the Church. An example was the 60 Minutes lead story last Sunday night was how the Vatican was “going after” dissenting Catholic nuns in the US. I don’t think it was any coincidence that CBS broadcast this episode on the last day of an extemely successful World Youth Day.

    • Bill

      I, too, am disturbed by the “off the cuff” remarks by the Pope. The results speak for themselves. How, Deacon, remarks like this one you made “We don’t need more comedians like Clinton and Obama. “, are not appreciated in a forum like this one. Keep your snide political remarks to yourself. If you have legitimate remarks to make on Obama or Clinton, make them. Your comment is certainly not legitimate.

      • windjammer

        The good deacon is dead on correct. As to your sensibilities? Being factual is not being snide nor political. Clinton and Obama are wannabe amoral Kings. They are both puppet masters a/k/a clowns a/k/a comedians. If anything the deacon was being “kind” in describing the 2 ego driven narcissists.

        • Deacon Ed Peitler

          Thank you, windjammer. The two comedians I mention, because of the power they wield(ed) held people’s lives in their hands. When the comedian is a prelate, the matter of the salvation of others’ souls is at stake. I dare to say that the latter is far more consequential.

    • jhmdeuce

      I don’t like this Pope.
      I agree with everything else that you have stated. He is a well educated and experienced prelate. He knows exactly what he’s saying and he knows how it will be interpreted. He is a typical late 20th century Jesuit using “Vatican II-speak” to make his point, while leaving his remarks open to interpretation by faithful Catholics fairly aching for a decisive and orthodox leader. He is a shameless exhibitionist and he is a dangerous man.

      • windjammer

        Not in agreement with you….yet. But Pope Francis is definitely “putting me nervous” a bit. Argentina proves he is media savvy but Rio is not Rome. He could recite the phone book out loud and the MSM would find theological pronouncements from it.

        • jhmdeuce

          Francis COULD recite the phone book and the MSM WOULD find pronouncements in his address. But, he knows this. He talked to these reporters for almost an hour and a half. It was calculated on his part. I would say that I will say an extra ten rosaries for him, but he would ridicule me. He mentioned that “gay lobby” isn’t included on the Vatican identification badges. Apparently, neither is “pope.’

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    This is labouring the obvious. As the great Dominican theologian, Billuart, insisted, “Neither in conversation, nor in discussion, nor in interpreting Scripture or the Fathers, nor in consulting, nor in giving his reasons for the point which he has defined, nor in answering letters, nor in private deliberations, supposing he is setting forth his own opinion, is the Pope infallible,” In the same vein, following the First Vatican Council, the Swiss bishops declared, “The Pope is not infallible as a man, or a theologian, or a priest, or a bishop, or a temporal prince, or a judge, or a legislator, or in his political views, or even in his government of the Church.”

    After all, an ecumenical council is infallible, but as Peronne notes, “Councils are not infallible in the reasons by which they are led, or on which they rely, in making their definition, nor in matters which relate to persons, nor to physical matters which have no necessary connexion with dogma.”

    Perhaps this teaching should receive greater emphasis.

    • slainte

      An under-educated global citizenry, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, do not draw the narrow distinctions you outline.
      If the media reports that the Pope favors same sex attractions and then soundbites to the pope saying “who am I to judge”, the people believe that the pope agrees with the culture and approves of this identity.
      That is why clarity of communication is so very important.

  • lifeknight

    OK. PLEEEEEZE Someone correct the typos in this piece! I know it is Monday, but the third paragraph has two really stupid ones…….hopped and perm.
    Can’t help it. Spell check did not do the job. Now on with reading the point of the article….

  • Steven Jonathan

    Thank you Fr. Scanlon for clear and precise language on what is obvious to “men of good will.” The secular media is incapable to commenting accurately on anything of importance, it is an ominous sign that they have any credibility at all.

    It seems very obvious that a man with same sex attraction that goes so far as to mis-label himself a “homosexual” is incapable of carrying out the duties of a priest, not dissimilar to a heterosexual sex addict- both have a similar defect that would disqualify them from a proper service in the priesthood. It is pride from satan that would dictate otherwise and an extension of the narcissism necessary to cultivate any form of perversion.

    The world’s ear is not accustomed to hearing an innocent voice like that of the good Holy Father, a voice “without artifice.” The worldly cannot see Jesus drawing in the sand, much less hear him saying “go and sin no more.”

  • lifeknight

    I have a hard time making the distinction of age and homosexuality that is apparently important to the Pope. The engagement of homosexual acts by anyone is totally immoral no matter the age of the person. To have “men” in the priesthood who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies” is just asking for trouble. I also do not understand his use of “lobby” in his quotes.

    The Pope may have to consider clarifying his own statements and also be reminded of the Truth he is to defend in his station in life.

    Wow. I am often awed that we are even discussing such perversions! God help us all….especially the Pope.

    • slainte

      Issues of character, as well as prudence. may be applicable in assessing the suitablility of the papal appointee to the Vatican Bank.
      If the standard for admission to the priesthood, at the time the papal appointee was admitted to the seminary, barred men with homosexual proclivities from becoming priests, and if the appointee was aware of such proclivities in his own nature, then he should not have become a priest.
      Because of the allegations of money laudering, any appointee to the Varican Bank must inspire trust to restore credibility to the institution.

  • Alecto

    Good grief. Using the example of Jesus and the woman is not analogous to the sin of homosexuality in the Vatican and elsewhere. It is telling, though that no matter what the issue or the topic, the Catholic clergy always, always manages to find some way to introduce the failures of women into the subject matter. Just as no mention is made of what happened to the other half of the Biblical l’affaire stoning, we’re left to wonder about his punishment. So, too, the pope leaves us with many unanswered questions.

    The problem is exactly as Deacon Ed explained. But I would further suggest if the pope is serious about more prominent places for women in the Church, he ought to have considered appointing a woman to head the Vatican bank. With so many intelligent, well-educated women with so much to give, it seems he only sees us doing drudgery like cleaning up after his curia and taking orders from inferior men. Or appointing them to meaningless and polarizing social justice committees. I’ll believe the Catholic Church is serious about women’s participation, not when they’re admitted to the priesthood, but when he actually appoints a woman to a position within the Vatican that has some influence.

    • slainte

      So Alecto, are you available to head the Vatican Bank? 🙂

      • Alecto

        No, but after reading that HSBC has asked the Vatican Bank to withdraw its account on the heels of its money laundering scandal and this new appointment, maybe a Mother Cabrini, Mother Ann Seton type would be especially effective? You know, all cuddly and compassionate on the outside but with a core of titanium? 🙂

        • slainte

          Mary Ann Glendon maybe. She is well respected.

          • Alecto

            But has no experience or expertise in banking. Given the challenges faced by the VB, should try to get someone who actually knows something about global banking. Maybe a hedgie?

            • slainte

              Nope….the Pope needs someone with impeccable character and an established reputation to restore credibiity (a hedgie, are you kidding!). 🙂
              Glendon can hire underlings who have expertise in the required areas and oversee them. As a well respected lawyer, educator, and former diplomat to the Vatican, she is already well respected by the curia, and with an iron fist firmly enconced in a velvet glove, she can clean house. 🙂
              You are right about appointing a woman to this role. The Vatican can make a revolutionary statement while restoring credibility to the institution.
              Good thinking!

              • Alecto

                If it’s unfair to paint all priests as pedophiles, isn’t it equally unfair to paint hedge fund employees as ethically derelict? But, I agree with your assessment and believe this opportunity was squandered. Another area where the pope could use some female management is in his PR staff. LOL.

                • slainte

                  I speak from personal experience re: several hedge funds.

                  • Alecto

                    So do I.

                • Adam__Baum

                  Running a hedge fund isn’t the same thing as running a (commercial) bank. Much more pure risk in a bank. You can’t offset a bad loan with the home run of a five-bagger.

                  That having been said, I’m guessing they would need hedge fund types for what has to be a rather extensive forex operation.

                  If there’s a systemic problem in the VB, then it needs the people who can provide a new sounder architecture- dull, boring auditors, and not the type of lackey that ascends the Big Four.

              • Adam__Baum

                Without any reflection on Glendon, no lawyers, unless they have shown appropriate contrition for their practice of that dark art.

                • Slainte

                  Michael Patterson Seymour…any eloquent verbiage in defense of the profession to quash Adam Baum’s unwarranted assault?

                  • Alecto

                    Unwarranted? Are you kidding? 😉

                  • Adam__Baum


                    Roe v. Wade, Buck v. Bell, Kelo v. New London. Korematsu v. U.S., Kelo v. New London.. oh yeah, let’s not forget that masterful piece of jurisprudence, Plessy v. Ferguson.

                    Do I need to go on?

                    • slainte

                      Definitely unwarranted….
                      Thomas Jefferson understood a “trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution..”

                      Please consider,

                      John Zenger Trial (1735)
                      Nuremberg Trials (1845)
                      United States v. Amistad (1841)
                      Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
                      People v. Kermitt Gosnell (2012)
                      Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)
                      Bray and Operation Rescue cases
                      Board of Educ. v. Mergens – 496 U.S. 226 (1990)
                      United States Senate v. William Jefferson Clinton

                      Justice requires advocacy by excellent lawyers who seek the Good.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Interesting that you cite “United States Senate v. William Jefferson Clinton” as justice. The man perjured himself while in office (a felony) and the 90+ lawyers in the Senate refused to remove him in the office and Arlen Spector sought to incorporate some archaic provision of Scottish law to evade the clear responsibility of the Senate. That Clinton was eventually disbarred is meaningless.
                      Gosnell is another case where lawyers, (specifically Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell, both lawyers, failed to make routine investigations of that slaughterhouse, largely gbowing to political pressure. The credit for his prosecution does go somewhat to the lawyers, but the credit for the conviction goes to the jury.
                      I can also find plenty of contemporary law journal articles attacking the trial by jury system as unworkable or biased.
                      Justice may require lawyers, but it requires an excellent citizenry even more. It definitely doesn’t require lawyers to be indoctrinated, rather than educated at academies that pretentiously issue doctorate degrees. (Funny how many cases you cited were adjuticated when the common education of lawyers was apprenticeship (“reading the law”), rather than through an extravagently expensive academy that imbues its students with delusions of grandeur. It also doesn’t requre barristers to be members of a medieval guild that masquerades as a guardian of effective and ethical representation but really exists to enhance their THEIR GOOD, at public expense.
                      You exaggerate the probity of your evidence, counselor.

                    • Alecto

                      You forgot NFIB v. Sebelius. Perhaps the worst decision of all time.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      I also forgot Lawrence v. Texas, it’s ok, we don’t really have time for anything but a top ten list of carefully reasoned travesties calling themselves justice.

            • Adam__Baum

              Neither do most bankers. See “The Black Swan”, by Taleb.

              Whoever takes the job needs to be qualified not only in “banking”, but the peculiar territorial demands placed upon any institution called “vatican bank”. Secular banks may have scandals, but the Vatican bank could give rise to scandal.

        • HSBC has asked over 40 diplomatic missions to close their accounts, not just the Vatican’s:


          • Adam__Baum

            Correct. This is a reflection on HSBC, not the Vatican.

            • Alecto

              Hmmm, I seem to recall the Vatican having its share of accusations over money laundering? Not saying it’s accurate, just saying it happens. And if you’ve seen the amount of regulations, often conflicting regulations, to which banks must adhere, it’s understandable that they’re accused of all manner of wrongdoing. It isn’t that difficult to implicate anyone in wrongdoing in the new global banking regime. I view charges of this or that impropriety with skepticism. And, so does your favorite author:

              “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.” – Ayn Rand

              • Adam__Baum

                Former Bank auditor, CRA, FDICIA, knew ’em all…

    • Adam__Baum

      What intelligent well-educated woman would you suggest?

      Hillary Clinton? any of the associate justices of the SCOTUS? Janet Yellen? How about some of the faithful Catholics in Congress, such as Nancy Pelosi.
      Underlying your comment is a suggestion that somehow appointing a woman to a position of “some influence” will solve the specific problem of Vatican Finance and sate the calls for “participation”.

      Women are now in all sorts of positions not only of influence, but actual authority for a couple of decades now. There’s one thing this change has proven. Women in positions of temporal power are just like men in power -grasping, covetous and venal, courtesy of the absolute equality original sin.

      As for the “meaningless and polarizing social justice committees”, I give you Carol Keehan, obviously a skillful bureaucrat, but ultimately a leveraging her consecration for political aims, and at war with orthodoxy. Did a Pope appointy her? No, and no appointed the nuns on the bus, either. Hey, anybody hear from them lately, now that their use as campaign props is over? I wonder if they feel used and violated by a powerful man? Most of them make Andrew Greeley and Robert Drinan look like pillars of orthodoxy.

      I am really tired of the “if we’d just let women run things”, everything would be peachy line, as if that will mitigate original sin.

      • Alecto

        I’m suggesting a strategy, not an individual. You selectively edit out mention of any conservatives. I’ll bet there are many of them, familiar with Vatican politics and probably on the down low. And, if it’s a parade of the history of horrible men you want, Adam, there aren’t servers powerful enough on earth to deal with that amount of data yet! That’s 5,000 years of history. The Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians alone would probably crash the system.

        If the pope wants to lead women on, stating he wants women to more prominently “participate”, then he ought to understand that women will hold him to his word. Here was a great opportunity for him to put his money where his mouth is, in a position that is purely secular, would not have caused much controversy among Catholics, but nooooo, it’s all a big show and a big game for them. Women pay attention. We take these things to heart. And when we’re disappointed because we’re deceived yet again, we eventually become disillusioned and lose faith in their honesty and good intentions. It would be better for him to remain silent on this issue than disappoint yet again.

        You’re tired? You’re tired? Adam, no one here is suggesting anything about female priests or popes. We’re talking about a very narrow context of applying the pope’s stated intentions to his actions, the head of the VB. Here’s $20, go buy yourself some perspective.

        • Adam__Baum

          You selectively edit out mention of any conservatives.

          That wasn’t one of your specifications. I didn’t edit out anything. I’m just pointing out women are just as capable as men in being fallen.

          If women had the aggression and upper body strength that was so valuable in acquiring power, they’d be splitting authorship with men on slaughter.

        • givelifeachance2

          Give me a break – you don’t speak for me, Alecto. Many of the twentieth century’s problems were unleashed by feminists with power. What the world needs now is for women to go home and take proper care of their children (and parents). We women have the most privileged place in the world as mother – why do we need to be priests, (or church administrators) too?

          De Beauvoir, Friedan, all of the feminists have marginalized the mother at home, despite the fact that she is the key to civilization – why do you think things have imploded so the last fifty years?

          The fact that good, faithful women are staying at home to raise children means that the corridors of power are disproportionately stacked (because of affirmative action) with family-phobic feminists. These feminists, who claim to speak for all women, are simultaneously taking away job from our husbands.

          Don’t speak for me, feminists. Vive la difference!

          • Alecto

            Who is saying anything about being priests? Or, turning women into men? What is it with you people? Unless women are at home, they don’t exist! Unless they’re at home, taking care of children, their life has no purpose or value? If that’s YOUR version of Catholicism, no wonder women are deserting this Church in droves. I’d like to remind you many of the women in the workforce aren’t there because they want to be, they must be having been discarded by some man. She may now be the sole parent, and breadwinner. I’m so tired of Catholics blaming women!

            No one is stopping you from having children and raising them. Motherhood is fabulous, not every woman is a mother or can be. Taking jobs away from your husbands? Lady, do you know the prime reason women are replacing men in the workforce? They tend to make less than a man on average! The first people to get laid off are men. And, the overwhelming majority of college graduates are women. No one is stopping men from achieving, but I suggest you familiarize yourself with the term “male ego”.

  • ClintLowell

    The Catholic world needs to understand this world is not our home and Satan will continue to attack us. I agree with Deacon Ed that the pope needs to be far more cautious in his statements before unleashing them to an uneducated, secular world. We need to be very clear about issues like sodomy and infanticide … ZERO TOLERANCE.

    • Adam__Baum

      Except you can’t have “zero tolerance”. If writs of proscription were all it took, we’d all be wonderful.

  • Marcellus

    It is not just the bad will of the press that might lead someone to hear his comments and wonder if this signals a shift in thinking. To imply that the homosexual orientation is not a problem except (only?) insofar as it leads to forming lobbies, while asking “who am I to judge?” might lead even a good willed Catholic to wonder. Fr. Scanlon says, “Let’s give him a chance to clarify.” However, regardless of whether the Holy Father or the secular press is at fault for the confusion, it is reasonable to hope for a clarification in the light of the confusion his comments caused or at least occasioned. Pope Francis is becoming more and more identified as “the pope of mercy.” Let’s not forget that one of the spiritual works of mercy is to admonish the sinner.

  • Maurizio

    I’m perplexed.
    Why is it that statements and actions from the Pope and various Bishops are always so ambiguous? Why is it that comments and editorials and newspapers all understand things differently? Why does it take posts like this to explain things point by point and other posts to explain points differently?
    What’s happening to our Church?
    I work with simple and normal people and I gurarantee that they have all taken ‘fischi per fiaschi’ (as we say here in Italy) i.e.: whistles for flasks!
    What’s happened to ‘let your words be Yes, yes, no, no!?

  • Maurizio

    Please explain the meaning behind distributing communion out of plastic cups at Rio!!! :(((

    • Facile1

      Uhhhh. Jesus fed loaves and fishes out of baskets. What’s the problem with plastic cups?

      • newguy40

        A fair question. The norms are firmly established. See quotes below if you want the detail.
        I will say that the loaves and fishes were not our Lord’s precious body and blood. The vessels that hold the body, blood, soul and divintiy of our Lord Jesus Christ must have the utmost quality and reverence. Plastic is hardly that material.
        The 2002 GIRM gives the following guidance:

        328. Sacred vessels are to be made from precious metal. If they are made from metal that rusts or from a metal less precious than gold, then ordinarily they should be gilded on the inside.

        330. As regards chalices and other vessels that are intended to serve as
        receptacles for the Blood of the Lord, they are to have bowls of nonabsorbent
        material. The base, on the other hand, may be made of other solid and worthy

        The Congregation for Divine Worship elaborated in 1980 in its Instruction
        on Certain Norms concerning the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery
        (Inaestimabile donum), saying, 16. The form of the vessels must be appropriate for the liturgical use for which they are meant. The material must be noble, durable and in every case adapted for sacred use. In this sphere judgment belongs to the Episcopal
        Conference of the individual regions. Use is not to be made of simple baskets or other receptacles, nor are the sacred vessels to be of poor quality or lacking any artistic style.

        Most recently, in 2004 the Congregation for Divine Worship, addressing abuses in these matters (such as the use of glass vessels), decreed in Redemptionis sacramentum,

        117 Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily.

        • Facile1

          Thank you for sharing this information. It is good to know there are established norms in the proper handling of the Eucharist.

          Would you know what the acronym GIRM stands for and who generally has access to this document?

          The situation in RIO seems to be an exception in many respects:

          1) The number of people attending the Mass at the beach was reported to be over a million.

          2) The Mass was a “one-of-a-kind” celebration RIO may not see the likes of which again in the next century.

          3) Is it within the power of the celebrant (in this case the Pope) to grant a temporary dispensation with regard to the application of these norms on occasion?

          As a Eucharistic minister, I’ve also taken the Eucharist in plasticware to the sick in nursing homes in my parish. I was never made aware of the norms involved. The plasticware was provided by the parish. But it is good to know the norms exist and I will ask for the document in the future should I be privileged to serve as a Eucharistic Minister again.

          I do not mean to be difficult and I apologize if I appear so to you. But if I were faced with a million people coming to dinner, I would NOT take out my best china.

          • newguy40

            The GIRM stands for General Instruction of the Roman
            Missal. And, is covers the rubrics /rules for all the functional aspects of the Novus Ordo Mass. If you do a web search you will find it easily. The other document I would recommend
            is Redemptoris Sacramentum. This is a “letter” from Blessed John Paul ii addressing many of the Eucharistic abuses in and out of the Mass. This is a short encyclical also readily available on line.

            I want to say thanks to you for taking the holy eucharist to
            those who cannot make it to Mass. That is a true act of mercy that you are completing. The Eucharist should be transported in something called a “pix”. This is a small metal carrier specifically
            for carrying the Eucharist to those who cannot get to Mass. This is a very inexpensive item and your parish should have some for you to use. If not, pls pls buy one and learn how to use it.

            In charity, I sense from your response that you are a faithful
            and willing Catholic. Unfortunately,like me, you were poorly catechized on your Faith. Do not rely on your parish folks or
            pastor. Many of them are as poorly catechized. Take the time to find out what the Church states in how the Mass should occur. The documents are easily found on line. Or, go to Catholic Answers Forum and ask.

            Much of the Eucharistic irreverence occurred in Rio because
            those responsible did not take ownership of the process. The precious blood in the plastic cup is a function of reception in both species. Christ is really and truly present body, blood, soul and divinity fully in the Eucharistic. The reception of
            the blood by the lay is not necessary. And, IMO, open to further misunderstanding, irreverent acts and abuses.

            In regards to your last comments about breaking the China
            with the guests. Metal containers are not likely to break. In 20+ years of attending Mass, I’ve never seen a ciborium dropped.
            I’ve seen the precious body dropped by old and infirm EMHC’s that never should have been allowed to perform this in the first place. Remember it is NOT the worthiness of the recipient but Who is present in the vessels. It’s our Lord.

            • Facile1

              Our Lord was never so richly robed in real life.

              Thank you, however, for your insight.

              • newguy40

                And, he is still with us body, blood, soul and divinity in the eucharist and precious blood.

                Mark, chapter 14
                3: And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the
                leper, as he sat at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.
                4: But there were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment thus wasted?
                5: For this ointment might have been sold for more
                than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor.” And they reproached her.
                6: But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.
                Doesn’t God deserve the best from us? He deserves the richest Cathedrals, vestments, vessels and liturgy.

  • Me

    Pope Francis’s most significant comments in that interview were: “We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.” This is a very Catholic and Christian position. The idea of ostracizing and excluding gays is uncharitable and theologically incorrect. If we were to banish every sinner from polluting our little domains with their presence, we’d all end up very lonely. And we’d probably find ourselves on the receiving end of banishment too!

    • Deacon Ed Peitler

      When these kinds of accusations are leveled – that “gays” are being marginalized and excluded, I would like to see evidence to substantiate this. This is a red herring and an attempt to solicit feelings of sympathy for the homosexual lifestyle. I just am not buying it. These days every issue is processed through the amygdala, rather than through the frontal cortex.

      • Me

        You don’t think excluding gay scouts from participating in scouting, for example, was marginalizing or excluding them? What do you think Francis was thinking about when he said, “We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society”?

        • Bob

          Any young teenage boy with a homosexual tendency should be allowed in to the Boy Scouts. But around the camp fire at night, when morals, values and how to become good men of character are discussed, that teenage boys homosexual orientation (along with the negative feelings and disorders of the boys with heterosexual tendancies) needs to be talked about and challenged. All of these boys need to be taught by good, virtuous men that tendencies towards fornication, homosexuality, stealing, lieing, false witness, unrighteous anger, drug use, violence, revenge, the objectification of anyone, etc. are all road blocks in their development towards fully developed manhood.

          So sure…..let the young man with homosexual tendencies in to the Boy Scouts. There he will be taught (along with the boys with heterosexual tendencies) how to become a virtuos man for others.

  • Charles Lewis

    This quote is from your story: “But in this interview Pope Francis certainly did not say anything contrary to Pope Benedict’s assertion in his recent book, Light of the World, that “homosexuality is incompatible with the priesthood.” Did Benedict mean that any homosexual is not fit for the priesthood or those who can’t overcome their sexual urges? If it’s the latter, then obviously Benedict and Francis are on the same page. But if Benedict meant no homosexual, even those capable of practicing celibacy, can be a priest than I think Francis has certainly contradicted Benedict. I”m not sure how anyone, straight of gay, who is called to the priesthood and can be true to their vows, should be a priest.

  • davend

    Fr. Scanlon’s “move along; there’s nothing to see here” falls very flat. Pope Francis’s repeated use of the term “gay”–in a manner much more attune to the way that the designation is used in popular culture–is quite striking indeed and a sea change from the language used by his predecessors in discussing homosexuality.

    Regarding Pope Benedict’s assertion: “homosexuality is incompatible with the priesthood” the change in approach is also crystal clear. Pope Benedict made a very specific judgment on this matter (in the negative in the vast majority of cases); Pope Francis refuses to make such a judgment–clearly indicated by his comments on Msgr. Ricca’s appointment. An investigation was done (which would have at very least revealed Msgr.’s homosexuality, and perhaps much, much more) and Pope Francis deemed Msgr. Ricca’s homosexual activity to not be an issue or disqualification from working at the Vatican Bank. The revelations regarding Msgr. Ricca’s “rent boys” are now a month old! Pope Francis is clearly not of the opinion that such things matter when discussing the qualifications for an employee of the Vatican Bank or action would have been taken long ago. EVEN IF the allegations weren’t true (and I don’t think anyone has denied them yet that I know of) the underlying message is unmistakable!

    Refusing to judge is also making a judgment.

  • Michael P. Mc Crory

    I like this Father Scanlon.

  • Fr. Regis Scanlon

    Brief response
    Question from the author, Fr. Scanlon

    I feel that I must have scratched an open wound. I am sorry
    about that.

    I find no evidence
    from what Pope Francis said that
    indicates that he is thinking of accepting gays into the seminary or
    priesthood. If you think he said something
    that indicates this,, please point out the exact words. The Pope’s statement
    that he would not “judge” gays doesn’t prove that he would accept
    their acts or orientation — especially in a seminary. The teaching from Mt. 7:1 is well known as is
    its meaning : “Judge not lest you be judged.” This means one cannot
    judge any person–not even Hitler. It
    doesn’t mean that you are not to judge their actions or orientation. There
    is no reason to suspect that the Pope means
    anything different from this divine teaching which he “must” follow.

    However, I do think the Pope is raising a question not
    raised before, at least in modern times. What do you do with homosexual who have maliciously or
    innocently slipped through the seminary’s psychological net but have but have reformed and have no
    criminal history (like child abuse), are now no danger to the flock, and who
    can do fruitful work for the Church.
    Should we kick them out of the priesthood?
    Yes or No. What would Jesus do? Really, what would He do? I really would be interested in your truthful
    answer on this. Yes? No?

    • slainte

      Father, You are equating the position of presently serving “priests with homosexual tendencies” to immigrants who have entered the country illegally, but who may have worked and contributed to society for many years, and who may also have had children in the U.S. I believe that you wish the Catholic laity to affirm that the Church should show mercy to these priests who have served for many years and allow them to continue in their respective ministries while living a celibate life. The Church would thus affirm their human dignity.
      Assuming the Church adopts this position as it relates to veteran priests, what then happens to men with homosexual tendencies who wish to enter the priesthood now or in the future? Does the Church draw a bright line and say that those who are already priests will remain priests, but deny entry to novices with homosexual tendencies, each of whom may claim to have a legitimate calling from God and who will pledge to live a celibate life?
      The question you pose, “what would Jesus do?” was put to me by a Presbyterian minister (Presbyterian USA) who answered the question himself by acknowledging the humanity of the person with homosexual tendencies and insisting that such person must partake fully and equal in all human and civil rights, including the right to marry and the right to be affirmed as a minister in that Presbyterian congregation. That minister is presently petitioning his synod to allow him to perform weddings for same sex couples in the Church, and his congregation self identifies as “open and affirming”.
      As a result of these decisions, many Presbyterian congregations are separating from Presbyterian USA and aligning with more conservative Presbyterian churches. Those who seek separation rely upon Holy Scipture’s (Old and New Testament) dogmatic and repeated condemnations of the underlying homosexual acts as abominations, while describing marriage as between one man and one woman.

      There is a much larger question at hand; whether in the interest of mercy, will the Catholic Church set aside dogma and Church tradition in the interest of affirming the humanity of persons with homosevual tendencies?
      Liberals in protestantism and Catholicism have much in common in their response to this question; so do Conservatives.

    • givelifeachance2

      Could his priesthood not be annulled, as tribunals are so profusely annulling (and judging!) marriages? Really, as someone with a disordered notion of sexuality, how can he effectively minister to marriages and even more importantly, how can he anymore “stand in” for Christ at the Mass than a woman could. If a woman somehow snuck into the priesthood, would we allow her to remain once discovered?

      There’s a reason we call you “father”, Father. A devirilized priest is a de facto danger to the flock.

    • davend

      Whatever one might surmise about Pope Francis, I do not think that naivete surrounding issues of sexuality is one of his faults–perhaps in stark contrast with his recent predecessors. (The Maciel case naturally comes to mind.)

      While officially the Church’s policy is to generally not admit homosexuals to the priesthood, let’s face it–most Catholic seminaries, particularly religious order seminaries with which Francis would be most familiar, have “psychological nets” with holes big enough for several Mack trucks. There is policy and then there is the blunt reality of the Church’s desperation for priestly vocations. The Pope is not stupid; he is neither going to backtrack on Benedict’s “no gays in seminary, more or less” policy, nor is he (similarly following in the footsteps of his predecessor) going to do anything whatsoever to enforce the “no gays” policy. Even if he wanted to tighten up on seminary admissions, such enforcement by Rome would be extremely difficult, if not impossible to orchestrate.

      Fully aware that all this is the case (many current gay priests; many more in the pipeline), Francis is back to Msgr. Ricca, who is the journalistic “case study” at hand. If one reads the Pope’s responses carefully, Pope Francis seems quite aware that Msgr. Ricca is a homosexual, that he has acted on his proclivities in the past, but that nothing that Ricca has done rises to the level of a crime: “We’re not talking about crimes, which are something else. The abuse of minors, for instance, is a crime.” For Francis, like Peter’s heinous denial of Christ, Msg. Ricca’s faults are simply past sins into which we must not probe too deeply and about which we must follow the logic of “forgive and forget,” assuming this activity is not continuing. So yes, I think Francis is in effect saying that homosexuals can continue in the priesthood as long as they do not act on their attractions, or, if they do, they must seek repentance and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation like everyone else.

      As for Francis “indicat[ing] that he is thinking of accepting gays into the seminary or priesthood,” this is already happening by default–as has been happening for decades, if not centuries. What we have is an admission that there will be no change in the current state of affairs, except that Pope Francis is being a bit more publicly open about what’s actually going on.

      Being able to look at situations the way they are rather than they way he wishes they would be may end up being one of this Pope’s greatest gifts.

    • Deacon Ed Peitler

      He was out of order discussing the situation of any particular priest with the press corps at the rear of a plane returning from a grueling schedule ministering to 3 million young people. He should have kept quiet on the matter until he was able to give a measured response. It’s great symbolism that he carries his own luggage and does not lie in the Vatican Apartments but this was NOT a teaching moment to educate the world about the subtleties of same sex attraction and a homosexual lifestyle – inside the priesthood or among the laity.

    • Deacon Ed Peitler

      And from what Pope Francis is saying about “homosexual men in the priesthood”, if Msgr Ricca would have been elevated to the episcopacy, this would of course be perfectly alright given the stance on forgiveness, past sins, repentance, etc (re=creating an Archbishop Weakland scenario). And by logical extension, Bishop Ricca would have been eligible to be elected Pope. So Francis should come right out and say that a man who had led an active homosexual lifestyle and repented of his sins (“Who are we to judge”) should be eligible for the priesthood. Isn’t this correct? We would also have to then say that anyone guilty of past grevious sin (adultery, murder, gross thievery, lying, calumny, cursing God) and who repented is also eligible for the priesthood since “Who are we to judge.” The problem is not “What should we do about Msgr Ricca?” but what kinds of men are eligible for the priesthood and episcopacy – and even the papcy itself.

    • Marcellus

      You say, Father, that “the teaching from Mt. 7:1 is well known as is its meaning: ‘Judge not lest you be judged.’ This means one cannot judge any person–not even Hitler. (Godwin’s Law rules!) It doesn’t mean that you are not to judge their actions or orientation.”
      Really? That’s great to know. If I am ever on trial for a crime I will hope for a Christian judge to whom I can say: “Judge my acts or my inclination to perform those acts, but in the name of Christ, don’t judge me!”
      By the way, you imply here that we can judge orientation. Do you agree with the Holy Father’s assessment that the homosexual orientation itself is not a problem?

    • jhmdeuce

      “I find no evidence from what Pope Francis said that indicates that he is thinking of accepting gays into the seminary or priesthood.”
      The priesthood and seminaries are already awash with sodomites. The question should have been when id the Church going to get rid or them?

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  • Olga Lucia Manrique

    I think Deacon Peitler is absolutely right.
    Ever since the new pope was elected I’ve seen just about everybody desperately and nervously scrambling to explain, justify and/or excuse everything that comes out of this man’s mouth with a “what he really meant is…” There should be no need whatsoever to rephrase or reconstruct whatever the pope says, in particular concerning faith and morals. His message is not crystal clear, except when he talks about social justice, which the “progressives” just love to hear (I’m all for helping the poor, by the way, which the Catholic Church has done since it was founded by Our Blessed Lord Himself) . It’s like the elephant is in the middle of the room but, this pope is already such a “rock star” and everybody loves him because he is “so humble and irresistible”. The moment our beloved Catholic Church begins to be so “popular” is the moment to realize that the time has come for us to reflect on what Pope Paul VI once said: “the smoke of Satan has entered the Church”.

    Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us; Saint Michael the Arcangel, defend us in battle!

  • Joan of Arc

    Great column, Fr. Scanlon. Thank you for defending the Holy Father. Odd to see suggestions in the combox that the sins of a priest should not be forgiven. Where would the Church be without St. Augustine? No sin, no conversion. For that matter, where would it be without the conversion of St. Paul from murderer to apostle? What does Jesus say about a lost lamb? A woman at the well? A prodigal son? A woman about to be stoned? Thank God for absolution. Also, odd combox advice to Francis. Are some really more Catholic than the Pope and more experienced than the Bishop of Rome? Long live Pope Francis. Thank you again for this great piece.