Pope Francis and Gays: “Loving the Sinner” Is Still Intolerance

Catholic doctrine still vilifies homosexuality, and no amount of priestly "love" makes that okay

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Papal statements often get the same breathless scrutiny that’s usually lavished on cryptic symbols in Dan Brown novels. So it’s hardly surprising that the world, especially Roman Catholics like myself, is breathlessly decoding what Pope Francis told reporters on his flight back to Rome from Brazil on Monday regarding homosexuality: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

As TIME’s Stephen Faris has noted, while the Pope’s remarks might be a welcome and humane sentiment, they hardly represent a break with Catholic church doctrine, which still condemns homosexuality. The Vatican’s catechismal stance regarding the LGBTs in our midst remains the same: The church may love the sinner, but it hates the sin. And since Francis was referring specifically to gay priests—who like other Catholic clerics take a vow of celibacy and so don’t commit the “sin”— His Holiness wasn’t exactly going out on a theological limb.

(MORE: Pope Francis Says He Does Not Judge Gay Priests)

But at a time when the world, including most U.S. Catholics, is increasingly accepting gay rights and even gay marriage, here ‘s what’s really significant about the Pope’s statement: The love-the-sinner-but-hate-the-sin trope no longer carries much if any moral credibility. How—given our awareness today that homosexuality is as biological as heterosexuality, and that homosexual relationships have proven as valid and socially enriching as straight ones— can we take any religious leader seriously when he claims to love gay people but at the same time demonizes the consummation of their love for each other?

How, for example, can the Catholic church declare homosexuals “disordered” and their lifestyle an “intrinsic moral evil,” yet expect us to applaud its “love” for gays somewhere beneath all that homophobic bigotry? My mother was raised in Mississippi and has often told me of Southern whites in the mid-20th century insisting they could love a black person even if they hated the black race. No, you can’t have it both ways. So it makes no more sense to me in the early 21st century to hear Pope Francis claim to love gays while I know that when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires he called Argentina’s legalization of gay marriage a “grave anthropological regression.” Or to hear celebrity evangelical pastor Rick Warren profess admiration for gay friends but then keep saying that it “might be a sin” for them to sleep with each other.

At least Warren is hedging these days. And even if Francis wasn’t announcing doctrinal reform on Monday, his comments may still eventually help break down the Vatican’s denunciation of gay life — especially since they mark an explicit papal approval of homosexuals in the priesthood, an endorsement that would have made the miters of his predecessors spin on their heads. Conservative lay leaders like Bill Donohue, president of the New York-based Catholic League, have even suggested that the church’s clerical sexual abuse crisis was largely a result of gay infiltration of the priesthood. Now, we’re likely to see more openly gay priests like the Rev. Fred Daley, pastor of All Saints Church in Syracuse, N.Y., who is leading a campaign to erect a monument to the Rev. Mychal Judge, another gay priest and New York City Fire Department chaplain who was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Either way, the Pope’s remarks point up a dilemma for his and many other religious institutions today. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York admitted recently that “we haven’t been too good, we’ve got to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people.” And the best way to do that is by reforming the doctrine that attacks gay people.

(MOREA Pope for the Poor)

636 comments
trygor
trygor

". . . given our awareness . . ."   Whose awareness? What arrogance!

CubSwansonFan
CubSwansonFan

Homosexuals -- you are welcome to come to my church. We promise to hold fast to scripture, be utterly honest with you and share in your struggles as you seek to live a life of holiness. My community will not make a special exemption for your struggle and you will be treated with the same christlike love, grace, and rebuke as needed. Society will tell you to "be who you are", but if you are in Christ, you are his son, and the life he calls you to -- one of sexual purity-- is radically different than the one society calls you to. Hope to see you at my church soon. If you are in the federal way washington area we have services in saghalie middle school at 9 11 and 4 on sunday. Hope to see you soon. Black guy with hawkish hair.

flintstriker
flintstriker

Why do we continually stigmatise homosexuals, anyway, as if we wanted to box them in this category? Why should homosexuals be expected to be sexually active, loud, assertive? Homosexuals are just people who feel sexual inclination toward someone of the same sex. It isn't related to their sexual appetite, values, or even if they should act on it or not. Nothing is automatic, we are rational beings and can control ourselves. Presenting homosexuals (and even heterosexuals) as acting automatically in the sexual sphere is another way of demeaning the choices of a person. 

drsadtler
drsadtler

Why then are you still a Catholic?

PapaFoote
PapaFoote

"Catholic doctrine still vilifies homosexuality, and no amount of priestly "love" makes that okay..." - but - "a statement of position or belief" from a "dictionary" tells "us" that a "doctrine" can be "changed", if certain "leaders" decide to!

The Old Mountain Goat

Amber
Amber

"My mother was born in Mississippi and has often told me of Southern whites in the mid-20th century insisting they could love a black person even if they hated the black race. No, you can’t have it both ways."

No, you can't have it both ways, but you're working with a very large, slow turning ship here. 1980 was the year that the last country criminalized slavery. How long has slavery been going on? Women gained the right to vote in the 20th century in most countries, as people begain to realize we weren't as stupid as they though we were. Pope Francis is not breaking away from canon doctrine, but he is breaking away from previous non-doctrinal beliefs that if a man (or woman) even had desires for someone of the same sex they couldn't entire the religious life. No matter how much they vowed to be celibate. So celebrate. If you're expecting a 1500 year old institution to suddenly change, then you haven't paid too much attention to history. Popes don't make sudden and drastic dogma changes too often. There are currently only two instances of the use of ex cathedra in 1500 years. And even with him not changing any dogma or law, he's making many many conservative Catholics in the US very nervous. 

maevequigleymq
maevequigleymq

The reason the Catholic Church is anti-gay is the same reason they are anti women becoming priests and anti abortion. Their very survival depends on Catholics having more Catholic babies. I'm from Ireland and it was only a few decades ago contraception was legalised. Our grandmothers were baby machines. The Catholic Church did not care if she had health problems or could die from pregnancy, contraception was a big-time sin. The idea of a two child family horrifies the Catholic Church, as does childless men and women (ban on women becoming celibate priests and homosexuality in general). These are "sins" against the Church because you are depriving them of their future if you don't make lots of little Catholics.

maevequigleymq
maevequigleymq

Ibookworm, identical twins are not identical. From the moment they are conceived, in fact arguably before that ( as the gene sequences seperated unequally during miosis) their seperate sets of genes diverge and they become more and more unalike. Epigenetics control the expression of the genes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics. So, to make a complex topic simple, we don't have a "I'm gay" gene. It's a lot more complex than that and involves the switching on and off of genes mostly by hormonal processes. This is why a boy with older brothers has a higher chance of being gay. The mother's body, in very simple terms again, become more adept at reducing testosterone in the foetus every time she carried a baby boy. Lower levels of testosterone in the brain at certain narrow windows of development will increases the chance that boy will be homosexual. This is epigenetic in action

ibookworm
ibookworm

It just amazes me that people still claim that it is genetic when genetically identical twins turn out so differently. You know Jason Collins, the basketball player who recently came out as gay? Well, he's got an identical twin who's NOT gay. Most twins of gay people aren't gay themselves. Since identical twins are GENETICALLY identical, homosexuality is obviously not genetic, or even due to prenatal factors since they share the same prenatal environment. Really, this should be the end of the story on the genetic angle. It shouldn't even be talked about anymore. But since it serves the attempt to equate homosexuality with race, "born this way" is not going to go away.


This is not to say that homosexuality is a choice, any more than bulemia is a choice. But it is a disorder (and a curable one! . . . though these days anyone who says they've changed is told they are a liar) and to treat it as an integral feature of the individual the way that race is does no one any good, least of all the homosexuals themselves.

But I'm not allowed to say that anymore. It makes me a bigot.

Kenster999
Kenster999

@ibookworm Also, "handed-ness" is not always the same in identical twins. If one twin is left-handed, the odds are (only) 75% that the other twin will also be left-handed. Interestingly, those are about the same odds for sexual orientation as well. If one identical twin is gay, the odds are about 72% that the other twin is also gay. If the twins are fraternal but not identical, then the odds that both twins will be gay is something like 50%. So, the more the genes are the same, the more likely sexual orientation is to be the same. It's probably a combination of dormant genes and hormones that affect which genes get expressed.

CleverTitania
CleverTitania

 @ibookworm It makes assumptions about an entire group of people, without knowing if there is any validity in the statement - that is pretty much the center of bigotry. Plus, every bit of information you just used to back your argument, is just wrong. So yes, it's an entirely bigoted statement - but on the plus side, it's also wrong. 

NO, you cannot cure gay. In point of fact, many states are now outlawing programs which claim to do it, because they are mentally abusive, and psychologically damaging. Suppressing an urge is lying to one's self, if you claim the label is gone, with an urge that is only suppressed. People are most assuredly "born that way." 

And no, identical twins are NOT genetically identical. Don't get your information from CSI. They are NEARLY identical. The fact that DNA technology isn't good enough yet, to spot variances in identical twins, sufficient for a court of law, does not remotely mean they have absolutely 100% identical DNA. They are not genetically identical - and technology looking for genetic predispositions to disease, which can vary between twins, is already starting to emerge. The gene is not the end-all-be-all base of genetics, any more than the cell is the smallest base of cellular biology. 

And the very fact that genetically identical twins are not 100% identical in every single personality trait, demonstrates that your argument is monumentally stupid. Identical twins have all kinds of variances in behavior, communication style, talents and passions, learning style, physical and learning disabilities, and hobbies/interests. These do NOT all come from environment and learned behavior - some people are born musically or sports inclined, others are not. Twins, if both heterosexual or both homosexual, can also have entirely different preferences on partners, sexual lifestyles and family dynamics. They're not clones, they're twins.

And no, it is NOT a disorder. 1500 species of animals on this planet, engage in same-gender sexual behavior. It is an entirely natural phenomenon, that exists throughout nature. Look it up. No reputable PhD would refer to it as such anymore - sexual orientation is as integral a part of who we are, as gender, or race. 

Your bigotry may be based on ignorance, but it does not justify it. You are making a lot of assumptions about people, without having remotely the facts to back it up. If you're going to demean an entire group of people, by calling them damaged, you better have more knowledge that you demonstrated here.

docdix
docdix

Heterosexuals who fornicate, who sleep around, who indulge in porn;  these are acts that the Church have spoken forcefully against as being immoral. Why should homosexuals plead a special consideration in these matters? Heterosexual Catholics who indulge in these acts have never asked the Church to change her teaching on them but that is what the gay community wants. Could it be that gays identify themselves with their actions  whereas heterosexuals know and maintain that separation, (i.e., that who you are is not what you do)? If that's the case then whatever the Church says regarding loving the sinner and disapproving of the sin will never be acceptable. 

CleverTitania
CleverTitania

@docdix So what about homosexuals who don't indulge in porn, don't sleep around, and would just as soon not have sex until they're married? Do you give any thought to them? 

Oh no, gay people are all just fornicators eager to sin right, there's not normal, good, moral people who are gay, right? No, they're all sexual deviants - even if that's the most ignorant statement one can make, about that many people, they've never met. 

There is a big difference, between condemning homosexuality as against your religion (note I said YOUR), and condemning homosexuals based on what you IMAGINE they are doing. And your view of homosexuality is entirely hateful and ignorant.

Could it be, that bigots project behavior onto others, than they themselves want to indulge in, and mistakenly think that their sinner-mentality allows for? Do you also imagine all gay men engage in anal sex? 

Newtechone.net
Newtechone.net

Good article but it is wrong to claim that people  today consider   homosexuality  to be as biological as heterosexuality.



CleverTitania
CleverTitania

@Newtechone.net No it's not - do your research. 1500 species engage in same-gender sexual behavior. In point of fact, ANY geneticist worth his diplomas, will tell you that there is every indication homosexuality is a genetic predisposition, as naturally occurring as heterosexuality. 

RickR
RickR

"... for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live."

Lebow-Ski
Lebow-Ski

@RickRYeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man...

RickR
RickR

I meant to include that is from Romans... hopefully you all knew that though! ;)


Lebow-Ski
Lebow-Ski

@RickR Yes, set yourself apart from your fellow human beings based on ancient cobbled together bronze age text filled with all kinds of wonderful teachings like, homophobia, misogyny, tribalism, racism, blind servility to unproven ideas, oh and the most amazing (and psychologically damaging) claim ever: "Original Sin". Make it easy for me to make my point, please....

Kenster999
Kenster999

@RickR "It is not good for man to be alone." Doesn't this apply to *everyone*?  Would you really deny love and companionship to a gay man? Think about it: you're literally saying that a gay person shouldn't have any intimacy or true love their entire lives. That strikes me as incredibly cruel. I don't think a loving and just God would create someone to be gay and then condemn them for it.

Also, you can tell if something is good by its fruits. Denying that you're gay (if that happens to be the case) or repressing it leads to great problems and sorrows. Accepting it leads to happiness.

I also think it's extremely arrogant to tell God that He made a mistake when He made someone to be gay.

Thanks for listening to my thoughts!

Lebow-Ski
Lebow-Ski

Can't we all see here perfectly well that the main source of hatred and division in the world is religion itself? What will it take for people to wake up and realize that religion is a huge crack pipe that leaves us emaciated, sick and selfish, just like a junkie.

dowwhiz
dowwhiz

It took me too long to realize that it was the Church that sinned against me.

MarkZilla
MarkZilla

I am interested in what the new Pope has to say.  He has interesting ideas - unlike his detractors.