The party that was thrown earlier this week over Pope Francis’ remarks has created quite a stir within the Catholic Church.
The Pope’s statement, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” seems to be a conciliatory remark towards the LGBT community, one that could mark a change in the way the Catholic Church has traditionally judged homosexuals.
This sentiment is in line with Catholic doctrine that teaches “that every man and woman should be accepted with love, including those with same sex orientation,” Cardinal George Francis told the Chicago Phoenix on Tuesday.
One strategy is to downplay the remarks made by the Pope this week, in an effort to minimize what the statement could mean for the Catholic Church’s stance on gays.
“There’s actually nothing startling about it,” said the president of the Catholic League, Bill Donahue, on Newsmax. “The Catholic Church has always taught that homosexuals and heterosexuals are the same in the eyes of God. Whether you happen to be inclined towards people of the same sex or opposite sex is morally irrelevant.”
However, he followed it with a reminder that sex is only condoned within a marriage: “If you’re engaged in sexual behavior outside of the institution of marriage, that is sinful behavior,” Donahue went on to say.
When asked whether the church would condone gay marriage, Donahue was adamant— “the purpose of marriage is procreation. Period.”
The change, however minimized or criticized, is substantial. Homosexuals are not the problem, as long as they don’t have sex. Ever. I can see the “God Hates Practicing Fags” signs now.
As at least one writer has pointed out that the problem is in the way that the Catholic Church handles sex.
“Gay sex is wrong… because it involves acts that can’t make babies. This is solely determined by asking which bits go where and do what. The people behind and inside the bits are quite irrelevant,” wrote blogger Andrew Brown in The Guardian.
It’s the failure of the Church to take into account the human being behind sex acts that creates such polarized thinking, and alienates many from the institution’s teachings.
One Catholic Church, the Most Holy Redeemer of San Francisco, has made huge strides in reaching out to the gay community, looking past dogmatic thinking and instead connecting with the community outside of its doors.
Father Godfrey, writer of Gays and Grays: The Story of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Church, wrote “I believe in other words, that the gospel must always be inculturated into every culture, and this must include gay culture.”
The Most Holy Redeemer is an example of a way in which the Catholic Church can push past its antiquated ideas about sex, and embrace parishioners for who they are and support the community in its endeavors. MHR has been a participant of the San Francisco Pride Parade since 1998, and also one of the first to establish a Gay and Lesbian Outreach committee.
On the question of marriage equality, Father Godfrey states, “the people who make a conscientious decision to live together as a gay couple, and then they come to communion, just like people who make a similar decision on birth control, you don’t harass them. You respect their decision.”
The book was published in 2007.
A letter quoted in Gays and Grays credits Holy Redeemer with being at the forefront of the Catholic Church, and paving the way for inclusion of gays within the church: “The institutional Church is blind, ‘just doesn’t get it,’ in the same way Jesus was initially blind and didn’t get it with the Canaanite woman. A parish such as MHR calls the rest of the institution to conversion…”
One can only hope.