On June 26, the anniversary of the legalization of same-sex “marriage” in the USA, Pope Francis made controversial comments on his return flight from Armenia. He said that the Catholic Church and all Christians should apologize to homosexuals for failing to protect and accompany them.
In truth, there is likely an apology due to persons experiencing same-sex attraction from the Church, particularly her leadership beginning with Pope Francis himself. Rather than make the needed apology, the Pope in his remarks repeated the very actions for which the Church must repent—failure to point out the immorality of homosexual acts.
For all of his push to be caring and pastoral, the Holy Father missed an opportunity to demonstrate care and pastoral outreach, at least by a truly Catholic definition of those terms. Since homosexual acts, from a Catholic perspective, lead to dire consequences for the soul, the Church has always insisted on informing people about these dangers.
Pope Francis’ predecessor Pope Benedict XVI made that clear while serving under Pope St. John Paul II. In 1986, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger issued a document instructing bishops on the pastoral care of homosexual persons. In it, the Cardinal admonished bishops to ensure they were “clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral.” The instruction adds, “But we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church’s position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.”
One could fairly say that Pope Francis misrepresented the Catechism in his response to the reporter on the plane. “I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally,” said the Pope. Nowhere in his response did he express any of the Catechism’s many grave warnings about homosexual acts.
The Catechism’s teaching on homosexuality is given in three paragraphs comprising just over 220 words. The Pope’s response references only 20 words from the middle of the second paragraph, ignoring the numerous passages warning against the harmful sexual behavior.
The Catechism warns that homosexual acts are “acts of grave depravity” and that they are “intrinsically disordered,” that they are “contrary to the natural law” and that “under no circumstances can they be approved.” The Catechism stresses that same-sex attracted persons are called to chastity, and calls them to approach Christian perfection.
Those truths however are very hard to mention especially today where those who would dare give voice to the harms of gay sex are immediately deemed social outcasts. But are Catholics, especially those in the hierarchy, not called to “preach the truth in season and out of season?” Do the Scriptures not admonish us that to fail to discipline is to “hate” your child?
It is love that compels a parent to remove a child from a dangerous situation, even when that child is complaining about his parents being mean for depriving him of his fun. But if you believe in the eternal consequences for sexual sin, you cannot stay silent.
Even a committed atheist can see that. Penn Jillette, of the famous Christian-bashing show Penn and Teller, said these words back in 2008:
If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and that people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward …—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible, and not tell them that?
So, yes, Catholics and all Christians need to apologize to those with same-sex attractions. We need to apologize for having failed to lovingly point out the harm of homosexual sexual acts for both body and soul. That pastoral activity was the duty of the clergy first and foremost.
Love demands we speak the truth and the future of Christianity depends on it, as Pope Benedict warned. A time of persecution of the Church is near at hand, and indeed, in many parts has already arrived.
In an address given only 18 days prior to his election to the pontificate, and one day prior to the death of Pope John Paul II, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said: “Very soon it will not be possible to state that homosexuality, as the Catholic Church teaches, is an objective disorder in the structuring of human existence.”
(Photo credit: Edward Pentin / CNS)