I knew all along I would be writing this piece. I had hoped it would come a day or two later. But when people are interpreting the Pope’s words (“Who am I to judge [gay people]?”) as encouragingly tolerant, there isn’t a moment to waste. Doctrinaire cardinals must rush to assure the world that the Church is as tough on gays as ever, and don’t you forget it.
Leading the pack is Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, who hastened to explain that this is just another one of those love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin deals:
While certain acts may be wrong, [the Church] would always love and respect the person and treat the person with dignity and not judge them… Jesus, when he met the woman who was going to be stoned to death for adultery and he threw all the people off, he said ‘I don’t condemn you, but don’t sin anymore’. In other words, I love you and respect you, but I’m calling you to virtue and perfection.
Never mind that gay Catholics, unlike the woman caught in adultery, have no church-approved outlet for their sexual expression, nor that the Church is fighting loudly and vociferously to ensure their religious rules for marriage continue to apply to non-Catholic couples.
Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George also responded with his own interpretation of the pontiff’s words:
[Pope Francis] reaffirmed the teaching of the Catholic faith and other religions that homosexual genital relations are morally wrong. The pope also reaffirmed the church’s teaching that every man and woman should be accepted with love, including those with same-sex orientation.
He added that the Church is open to embracing homosexuals who are willing to seek the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) and live lives of perpetual chastity.
Speaking on behalf of the remaining members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the organization’s director of media relations Mary Ann Walsh had this to say:
The Church has always made it very clear that homosexuals are welcome. The problem is homosexual activity, which the pope can’t condone. Francis is saying that in a nicer way.
As leaders of the Church rush to stamp out any hope for change that gay groups and individuals might derive from Pope Francis’ words, there are certainly those who take the Pope’s remarks very seriously. Many LGBT groups have celebrated the pope’s stance, while conservative Catholics lament even the barest appearance of pro-gay tolerance and, in some extreme cases, call for an end to Francis’papacy and his excommunication from the Catholic Church.
It’s all overreaction, in both directions. The Pope is still a Catholic, and “practicing” homosexuals are still threatened with eternal damnation. Move along, there’s nothing to see here.