Monica Devine (Letters, Dec 30) criticises the rector of St Patrick's College, Silverstream, for allowing same-sex partners to attend the school ball. Pope Francis, Time magazine's person of the year, responding to a recent question about gay rights said: "Who am I to judge". Pope Francis needs every encouragement in 2014.There are so many things wrong with Des' interpretation of what Pope Francis said and why he said it and what it might mean, that I really need to break everything down in order to be clear.
|Pope Francis talking to the press on the plane back to Rome from Rio De Janeiro after World Youth Day, 28 July 2013|
On 28 July, 2013, Pope Francis held a press conference during his return flight from Rio De Janeiro. He was asked many questions, and you can read all those questions and his answers on the Vatican website. During that press conference he was asked about Monsignor Ricca's private life and the gay lobby. The specific question was:
I would like permission to ask a delicate question: another image that has been going around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca and the news about his private life. I would like to know, Your Holiness, what you intend to do about this? How are you confronting this issue and how does Your Holiness intend to confront the whole question of the gay lobby?
As you can see from the question above, Pope Francis was not asked about "gay rights" as alleged by Des Darroch of Kilburnie.
However the problem is that the infamous, "who am I to judge" that has been attributed to the pope and applied to gay rights by such persons as Des, has been plucked out of a very long answer because of the goings on of a certain Monsignor Ricca. The actual sentence that the pope uttered, in Italian, so here it is translated, was:
If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?
People who are searching for the Lord are not agitating for acceptance of their same-sex partners at the school ball.
The entire paragraph answer that Pope Francis gave to the question, I will now quote in full so that you can see the context of that one sentence. I've bolded the sentence that was summarised down to "who am I to judge", by Des of Kiburnie.
About Monsignor Ricca: I did what canon law calls for, that is a preliminary investigation. And from this investigation, there was nothing of what had been alleged. We did not find anything of that. This is the response. But I wish to add something else: I see that many times in the Church, over and above this case, but including this case, people search for “sins from youth”, for example, and then publish them. They are not crimes, right? Crimes are something different: the abuse of minors is a crime. No, sins. But if a person, whether it be a lay person, a priest or a religious sister, commits a sin and then converts, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we confess our sins and we truly say, “I have sinned in this”, the Lord forgets, and so we have no right not to forget, because otherwise we would run the risk of the Lord not forgetting our sins. That is a danger. This is important: a theology of sin. Many times I think of Saint Peter. He committed one of the worst sins, that is he denied Christ, and even with this sin they made him Pope. We have to think a great deal about that. But, returning to your question more concretely. In this case, I conducted the preliminary investigation and we didn’t find anything. This is the first question. Then, you spoke about the gay lobby. So much is written about the gay lobby. I still haven’t found anyone with an identity card in the Vatican with “gay” on it. They say there are some there. I believe that when you are dealing with such a person, you must distinguish between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of someone forming a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. This one is not good. If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a beautiful way, saying ... wait a moment, how does it say it ... it says: “no one should marginalize these people for this, they must be integrated into society”. The problem is not having this tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another, and there is this one and there is that one. The problem is in making a lobby of this tendency: a lobby of misers, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of masons, so many lobbies. For me, this is the greater problem. Thank you so much for asking this question. Many thanks.
Later, Pope Francis had an opportunity to clarify his "who am I to judge?" statement that has wrongly been taken up by all and sundry as Pope Francis giving his endorsement to gay rights. This is what he said to a Jesuit magazine:
In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are “socially wounded” because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro, I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.
A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?” We must always consider the person.
I totally agree with the pope.
When it comes to boys who are gay in Catholic schools, it is not good for them to be encouraged to take their same-sex partner to the school ball. For that gives them the idea that same-sex partnership is approved of by the church and is a way of life that is good for them in the long term. I bet if you asked the pope what he thought about boys taking their same-sex partners to school balls, what he would not say was that it was not for him to judge. Earlier in his press conference, he was asked why he did not talk about abortion or same-sex marriage. His answer was:
The Church has already spoken quite clearly on this. It was unnecessary to return to it, just as I didn’t speak about cheating, lying, or other matters on which the Church has a clear teaching!
The people who think Pope Francis is taking the Catholic Church in a radically different direction, such as Des who wrote the very short letter to the editor which they deign to call a "point", really need to pay more attention to what the pope is actually saying. Again, the pope is Catholic, what a surprise!