North Texas Daily

Pope’s remark on gays inspires discussion

Pope’s remark on gays inspires discussion

Pope’s remark on gays inspires discussion
July 31
12:53 2013
James Rambin / Executive Editor
He’s held the office for less than five months, but Pope Francis just can’t stay out of the headlines. Following a statement last May reaching out to the world’s atheists, which attracted media attention for seemingly implying that non-believers can still attain salvation, the pope surprised reporters again Monday by voicing what appears to be a more open stance on homosexuality.

In a short interview on his private plane during a return trip to Rome from a weeklong tour of Brazil, Francis told journalists it was not his place to judge gay members of the church – perhaps not even gay priests.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” he said. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized. The tendency is not the problem . . . they must be integrated into society.”

The Catholic Church still considers homosexual acts sinful, but the casual tone Francis employed has the Catholic community buzzing just the same.

Father Tim Thompson, pastor of the Immaculate Conception Catholic parish in Denton, said that although the pope’s statements don’t contradict existing doctrine, his approach was different from how previous popes talked about homosexuality.

“It feels like a kind of deliberate intention to call a truce. That doesn’t mean the church is changing what we teach, but maybe we’re putting things in a broader context,” he said.

“I think the pope is a great leader and an inspiring person, and he’s asked us to not judge people, including gay people . . . we always struggle with becoming judgmental and superior towards other people. That doesn’t work either.”

One of the most widely discussed aspects of the remarks was the pope’s use of the more casual term “gay,” rather than “homosexual,” which is a first for any pontiff – and a stark contrast from former Pope Benedict XVI, who in 2005 wrote that homosexuality was a “disorder” and that committed gays should not become priests.

Thompson said that as long as they remain celibate and obey the same Catholic teachings on sexual morality as heterosexual men, gay priests should be welcomed.

“I think there’s been a time where the church said, basically, we don’t think gay people can really live this way, because it puts them into more temptation than a straight person,” Thompson said. “I really don’t think that’s true. Especially in the seminary, they’re around more men, so it makes logical sense that they’re going to face some temptation. But everybody faces temptation.”

Pope Francis’ readiness to discuss an issue that seemed in previous years to be regarded as taboo by the church was enough to convince gay Catholic blogger Andrew Sullivan that Francis was breaking new ground for tolerance in Catholicism.

“What’s so striking to me is not what he said, but how he said it: the gentleness, the humor, the transparency. I find myself with tears in my eyes as I watch him. I’ve lived a long time to hear a pope speak like that – with gentleness and openness, reasserting established dogma with sudden, sweeping exceptions that aren’t quite exceptions – except they sure sound like them,” he said in a blog post.

The response among other progressive Catholics has been similarly positive, with LGBTQ Catholic group Equally Blessed releasing a statement praising Francis for his candid approach.

“Pope Francis did not articulate a change in the church’s teaching today, but he spoke compassionately, and in doing so, he has encouraged an already lively conversation that may one day make it possible for the church to fully embrace gay and lesbian Catholics,” the statement said.

The response from the local LGBTQ community was also optimistic. The Rev. Jeff Hood, pastor of The Church at Mable Peabody’s in Denton, which calls itself “A Queer Church meeting at a Queer Bar for Queer People who are seeking to know a Queer Jesus,” was excited to hear the pope’s remarks.

“There is a creeping phenomenon occurring throughout the world. People are being awoken to the possibilities of love. In his statement, we find Pope Francis creeping as well . . . toward the beauty of a world governed by a tremendous mantra: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ I pray that the world will go and do likewise,” he said.

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