It is curious how highly the secular media seems to approve of Pope Francis. Its praise breeds apprehension in some Catholics who tend to be wary of what the world applauds, and rightly so. Pope Francis was again made much of this week for a few candid words about homosexuals. The buzz was based on an interpretation that the Pontiff’s words expressed the beginnings of the long-awaited shift in the Church’s archaic position on homosexuality—which, of course, they did not. They did, however, express the Church’s position on something that could afford to be stated more often and as clearly: that Catholics are, in fact, accepting of homosexuals—just not in the way that the LGTB world wants them to be.
Answering questions from reporters on board his flight from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis was asked about the rumored homosexual lobby among high-ranking Curia within the Vatican. The Pope replied that though a “gay lobby” as a pressure group remains a concern, he does not judge people who are homosexual. “If someone is gay and accepts the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Pope Francis said in his typical, straightforward fashion. “They should not be marginalized. The tendency is not the problem… they are our brothers.”
The problematic tendency of the media is to pounce on a reactionary statement like this and turn it into something radical. Many are suggesting that the Pope is “evolving” with the Church in the perception of the gay community, and moving towards a new acceptance of homosexuality. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Pope merely reiterated the Church’s old acceptance of homosexuals. What the world would pass off as unorthodox is the most orthodox thing in the world. The Pope’s statement about his reticence to judge gay people was not the Seinfeld “Not-that-there’s-anything-wrong-with-that” moment the media would have it be—which reflects the difference between the Catholic acceptance of homosexuals and the earthly acceptance of homosexuals.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” (CCC, 2358) Though the catechism also affirms that homosexual acts are acts of “grave depravity” and are “intrinsically disordered,” it does not deny the trials that homosexual people undergo who refrain from giving in to their biological or psychological inclination, and the love we all owe them free of uncharitable judgment. After all, who are we to judge?
Neither was Pope Francis’ comment a pietistic “love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin” cliché. There are nuances to being Catholic that go beyond this general principle because Catholics are not called to despise sin detached from people. Faced with popular perversion, Catholics must consciously resist the muddled secular strategy of loving the sinner and the sin. This difficult balance will, unfortunately, always be branded as “intolerance.” Embracing the sinner without the sin, however, is not a hypocritical sugarcoating for homophobic bigotry. It is an act of love that desires perfection for another. The real transgression against charity is to embrace the sinner together with an unlovable appetite in the name of unconditional love. Loving acceptance of the lies called same-sex “relations” and “marriage” is not an act of love—it is only part of the lie. As Hamlet pleaded with words of love to his mother concerning her unnatural marriage, “do not spread the compost on the weeds to make them ranker.” America needs to learn that there is nothing hateful or judgmental in rejecting falsehood.
Though challenging, the culture must be approached as it is. With the overturning of DOMA, the inevitable has arrived—the only surprising thing about it is how unsurprising it is. How should Catholics show in a loving way that Christ offers something better? Certainly not by casting the first stone. Catholics know that homosexual acts are wrong, and they may either deal with this knowledge correctly or incorrectly—they may either become Christ-like or critical. Francis may well be calling Catholics to encounter this very real cultural problem with the smile of God and to promote the solution with His love; which is the opportunity to teach what we believe, becoming instruments of God’s grace for all people. This statement with others concerning divorced Catholics, reveal the Pope’s pastoral desire to return lost sheep to the fold. We should follow our shepherd’s lead.
In his June 26th statement applauding the Supreme Court’s denial of the truth that marriage is a legal union between one man and one woman, President Barack Obama said that the Court had righted a wrong. “We are a people who declared that we are all created equal—and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” The President’s words are reflective of a confusion that has culminated from this deviancy and deception in the pursuit of happiness. We do believe and declare that all men are created equal, but not the same—equality does not mean equivalence. That much we may judge. Furthermore, we do believe and declare as human beings, Americans, and Catholics that all men should love each other equally, following the natural law of our Creator who created us man and woman to be fruitful and multiply. In this lies truth and happiness. To deviate from truth is to deviate from happiness. That much, too, Catholics may judge—without passing judgment.
“The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts,” Obama concluded, “when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.” There is a Law that is higher than the law of the land from whence fundamental truths proceed. “Equality” falsely equated with “sameness” will not make the world free. That power is reserved for truth. The President was correct on one point—a point that, I believe, the Pope would second. “The love we commit to one another must be equal.”
Who are we to judge?
These are times to tread softly—and perhaps to leave the big stick at home. There is a fine line between condemning a lifestyle and condemning the person who lives it. The victory for Catholic America lies in doing the former without the latter. The only way to right this wrong Obama called a “victory” is to love our neighbors equally and honestly. True, Americans need to call a spade a spade—and a marriage a marriage—but once we stop denouncing what is wrong, we can start making it right. Love is the way, in accordance with the law written on our hearts. As Boethius says in his Consolation of Philosophy, “O happy race of men, if love, which rules Heaven, rule your minds.”
Let Him judge Who is Love and the Ruler and Judge of all.