The big Catholic story making the rounds today is that a papal blessing was given to an author of children’s books that promote homosexuality and gender theory. Given in such a way that it allegedly implied some form of approval from the Holy Father.
As you might expect, this is more than a little controversial. And as you also might expect, secular media outlets are wallowing in the filthy joy this gives them, and Catholic sources are falling all over themselves to say it isn’t so. Sources like Phil Lawler, who apparently know all there is to know about the situation and can assure you that there’s nothing to see here:
The Guardian headline is an eye-catcher:
Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children’s book
Wow! That’s newsworthy material for sure, isn’t it? Let’s take a closer look.
Did the Pope write the letter in question? No.
Did the letter praise the book? No.
So what’s the real story? There is none. But don’t expect that fact to stem the tide of inaccurate reports, flowing through the mass media, following the Guardian’s lead.
Here’s the reality: An author whose books are sympathetic toward same-sex partnerships wrote to Pope Francis. She received a polite reply from a Vatican official. That’s the whole story, and if you have trouble thinking of an appropriate headline, maybe it’s because there’s nothing worth reporting.
So what’s the truth?
Well, there’s only so much we know. Here’s a quick rundown of what happened from LifeSiteNews:
Italian children’s author Francesca Pardi was reported by The Guardian to have submitted a parcel of children’s books promoting the acceptance of homosexuality and gender theory to Pope Francis in June after Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro publicly banned the author’s newest book, Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg), from children’s schools. The book was criticized by pro-family leaders for promoting non-natural family structures of two men and two women.
In a letter accompanying the books, Pardi wrote: “Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us. We have respect for Catholics. … A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”
The Guardian is reporting that Pardi has now “found an unlikely supporter in Pope Francis,” who through his staff has responded to the author and is presented as “praising her work.” It quotes the following from a July 9 letter to Pardi from the Vatican.
“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,” wrote Peter B. Wells, a senior official at the Vatican Secretariat of State, in a the letter The Guardian is reporting it has seen.
While the letter gently calls the author to use her talents to spread “genuine human and Christian values,” The Guardian takes it as the pope’s endorsement of gender theory.
In a press release that Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi sent to LifeSiteNews on Friday, the vice speaker of the Vatican, Ciro Benedettini, made clear that the friendly reply letter to the author in no way approves of attitudes or positions that are contrary to Catholic teaching and the Gospels.
The Vatican’s statement also says that in the original letter from the secretariat of state Wells merely “acknowledged receipt” of the materials sent by Pardi, and also made clear that the letter was private and not meant for publication.
“In no way does a letter from the Secretary of State intend to endorse behaviors and teachings not in keeping with the Gospel,” says the statement, decrying the “manipulation” of the letter.
Benedettini said the blessing of the pope at the end of the letter was meant to be for the author herself, and not to affirm positions concerning gender theory that are contrary to the Church’s teaching. Using the letter to this end is erroneous, he said.
It really makes you want to see the whole letter, doesn’t it? Context is pretty important here. Without it, we can’t really know what was said, or how it was expressed.
But that doesn’t mean that those of us who are completely exasperated by yet another story such as this deserve a scolding for thinking it might be true.
After all, we have a pope who has turned “who am I to judge” into a rhetorical cudgel that every faithful Catholic now has wielded against them with regularity. A pope who thinks we talk too much about issues like gay marriage. A pope who had no problem publicly honoring a member of the Italian clergy who is famous for promoting homosexuality. A pope who intervened personally to reinstate without qualification a Catholic priest whose work was suppressed by the CDF for promoting, among other things, the idea that homosexual relationships are not disordered. A pope who has made a priest with a scandalous and salacious homosexual record into the administrator of his own household and one of the point men at the Vatican bank. A pope who has conspicuously held a private audience with a “married” transgendered person at the Vatican, met with a “married” gay activist in Paraguay, and met with a group of gay and transgendered prisoners in Naples. A pope who appointed a priest known for comparing gay sex to the Eucharist as a Consultor for Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. A pope who has empowered prelates like Cardinal Walter Kasper (who supports communion for the divorced and remarried, and the same-sex marriage vote in Ireland) and Archbishop Bruno Forte, who inserted the troubling language about homosexual persons into the last Synod’s mid-term relatio, and the entire German bishops’ conference, which is the largest and most influential power block at the Synod and which has now, through one of their “moral theologians,” indicated that they believe “gay marriage” is a sacrament.
These are only some of the most obvious examples that come to mind. We haven’t even begun to unpack the records of those who have been invited by Pope Francis to have a voice at the Synod, among whom are prelates (like Bishop Bonny of Antwerp) who openly defy Church teaching on sexuality. Cardinal Daneels (who supports “gay marriage,” has been embroiled in sexual abuse scandals, and who advised the King of Belgium to legalize abortion), and others.
Yes, Jesus ate with sinners and prostitutes. But he also called them to conversion.
Yes, when possible, charity demands that we should give the benefit of the doubt, especially to the Vicar of Christ.
But having a doubt (from which one might derive a benefit) about all of this has become exceedingly difficult, when again and again and again we are confronted with facts that undermine our confidence that Pope Francis actually desires to uphold Church teaching on these issues – a few throwaway comments about gender theory notwithstanding. If he disagrees with these agendas, he should not allow himself to be co-opted and painted as The Pope Who Will Change Things. He should instead be taking every opportunity possible to condemn these evils, and to remove those who promote them from power.
We’re all waiting for this to happen. It looks like we’ll be waiting a long time.
Of course, even if Pope Francis is in favor of allowing the pro-homosexual forces in the Church to advance their cause as it sometimes appears, he won’t ever come right out and support them through a direct statement. He can’t. Indefectibility is a real character of the Church, and it’s not going to happen.
But if Pope Francis is impeded by the Divine Hand from doing such things, others in the hierarchy are not. And he has allowed many of the worst of these complete freedom to operate, disseminating error and scandal throughout the ranks of the faithful. They are doing so even now, and for their dalliances with the Devil, they receive not even the slightest discipline.
It is at moments like these when it is helpful to recall the words of Pope Felix III (as quoted by Pope Leo XIII in Inimica Vis):
“An error which is not resisted is approved; a truth which is not defended is suppressed…. He who does not oppose an evident crime is open to the suspicion of secret complicity.”
UPDATE (9/2/2015): Francesca Pardi sought to clarify the matter in a Facebook post. The following image is a Google translation of that post. It makes the matter of the full text of the letter even more relevant:
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children.