Pope Francis' answer to the question has been reported all over the place - but not the actual question itself. This has lead to excitement in some quarter that Pope Francis is somehow changing the direction of the Catholic Church on her attitude towards homosexuals. Misinformation is being spread, mainly through is this AP article, regurgitated by news sources such as Stuff, with quotes such as the following:
Gay leaders were buoyed by Francis' non-judgmental approach, saying changing the tone was progress in itself, although for some, the encouragement was tempered by Francis’ talk of gay clergy's ''sins".
''Basically, I'm overjoyed at the news," said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the US-based New Ways Ministry, a group promoting justice and reconciliation for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people and the wider church community.
''For decades now, we've had nothing but negative comments about gay and lesbian people coming from the Vatican," DeBernardo said in a telephone interview from Maryland.
The largest US gay rights group, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said in a statement that the pope's remarks "reflect a hopeful change in tone".
The real change in tone comes from journalists, not from the Pope. Pope Francis is being cast as a change of direction from Pope Benedict, when he is no such thing. Both popes are Catholic and will continue to be so, and no one should be surprised about this.
Here is the actual question that Pope Francis was asked (translated by the Salt and Light blog from Italian), in relation to the new head of the Vatican Bank who might have had a gay affair:
I would like to ask permission to pose a rather delicate question. Another image that went around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca and the news about his personal life. I would like to know, your Holiness, what will be done about this question. How should one deal with this question and how does your Holiness wish to deal with the whole question of the gay lobby?
Pope Francis' answer was as follows (also translated by the Salt and Light blog). I've bolded the part that has been picked up by the world, so you can see it in context of the entire answer:
Regarding the matter of Monsignor Ricca, I did what Canon Law required and did the required investigation. And from the investigation, we did not find anything corresponding to the accusations against him. We found none of that. That is the answer. But I would like to add one more thing to this: I see that so many times in the Church, apart from this case and also in this case, one looks for the “sins of youth,” for example, is it not thus?, And then these things are published. These things are not crimes. The crimes are something else: child abuse is a crime. But sins, if a person, or secular priest or a nun, has committed a sin and then that person experienced conversion, the Lord forgives and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we go to confession and we truly say “I have sinned in this matter,” the Lord forgets and we do not have the right to not forget because we run the risk that the Lord will not forget our sins, eh? This is a danger. This is what is important: a theology of sin. So many times I think of St. Peter: he committed one of the worst sins denying Christ. And with this sin they made him Pope. We must think about fact often.
But returning to your question more concretely: in this case [Ricca] I did the required investigation and we found nothing. That is the first question. Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Agh… so much is written about the gay lobby. I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word gay. They say there are some gay people here. I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good. They are bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this point beautifully but says, wait a moment, how does it say, it says, these persons must never be marginalized and “they must be integrated into society.”
The problem is not that one has this tendency; no, we must be brothers, this is the first matter. There is another problem, another one: the problem is to form a lobby of those who have this tendency, a lobby of the greedy people, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. This is the most serious problem for me. And thank you so much for doing this question. Thank you very much!
What you can see happening with Pope Francis is what has been happening with previous popes over the decades. It's a misrepresentation of where they are coming from by ignorant or devious people who have an agenda. Hopefully the internet will be able to do with Pope Francis what hadn't been possible earlier, and that is clarification of what he actually said so that Catholics don't freak out and so that dissents and others don't get control of the message.