On Friday, I commented on a story about Cardinal Reinhardt Marx, one of the closest advisers to Pope Francis, head of the German bishops’ conference, and a presenter on Amoris Laeitia. Last week, Marx made waves in Dublin with a speech in which he said:
“The history of homosexuals in our societies is very bad because we’ve done a lot to marginalise [them].”
As church and society “we’ve also to say ‘sorry, sorry’ ”.
Until “very recently”, the church, but also society at large, had been “very negative about gay people . . . it was the whole society. It was a scandal and terrible,” he told The Irish Times after speaking at a conference held in Trinity College.
At the time, and after elaborating on the cardinal’s favored status in the current pontificate, I said:
In these examples, we see the profile of a man empowered. A friend and trusted confidante of the pope, a leader of his peers, a revolutionary who has united himself to the greater cause. A man in a position of such prominence must be very careful not to embarrass the boss, so to speak. He carries not just the weight of his own positions, but those of the very Vicar of Christ who has brought him into his inner circle. Which is why his comments this week in Dublin can’t be taken as merely his own opinion…
I can say to you with absolute moral certitude that as outrageous as they are, Pope Francis will not correct Cardinal Marx on any of these points. Francis has no qualms — none whatsoever — about being closely associated with a man who thinks this way. One can only surmise that this is because he unequivocally agrees with him.
I didn’t expect to be proven right so quickly.
Yesterday, during yet-another of his infamous plane-pressers on the return trip from Armenia, Pope Francis fielded questions on various topics ranging from his unpopular mention of the Armenian Genocide to the European consequences of Brexit to the debate over whether there are two popes to his thoughts on Martin Luther (these last demand attention as well, but will be the subject of a later post.) And then, when presented with a question about Cardinal Marx’ Dublin comments, Francis not only did not shy away from them, he in fact doubled down on his “Who am I to judge” comment from 2013 — the comment that in many ways set the tone for the papacy, and caused such grave consternation among Catholics. A comment that even led to him being featured as a poster boy for an alleged reconciliation between the Church and radical homosexual ideology.
Among the questions the pope fielded from journalists was the following, from Catholic News Agency’s Cindy Wooden:
Cindy Wooden, CNS: Holiness, within the past few days Cardinal Marx, the German, speaking at a large conference in Dublin which is very important on the Church in the modern world, said that the Catholic Church must ask forgiveness to the gay community for having marginalized these people. In the days following the shooting in Orlando, many have said that the Christian community had something to do with this hate toward these people. What do you think?
Francis’ response was unhesitating (my emphasis added):
Pope Francis: I will repeat what I said on my first trip. I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally. One can condemn, but not for theological reasons, but for reasons of political behavior…Certain manifestations are a bit too offensive for others, no? … But these are things that have nothing to do with the problem. The problem is a person that has a condition, that has good will and who seeks God, who are we to judge? And we must accompany them well…this is what the catechism says, a clear catechism. Then there are traditions in some countries, in some cultures that have a different mentality on this problem. I think that the Church must not only ask forgiveness – like that “Marxist Cardinal” said (laughs) – must not only ask forgiveness to the gay person who is offended. But she must ask forgiveness to the poor too, to women who are exploited, to children who are exploited for labor. She must ask forgiveness for having blessed so many weapons. The Church must ask forgiveness for not behaving many times – when I say the Church, I mean Christians! The Church is holy, we are sinners! – Christians must ask forgiveness for having not accompanied so many choices, so many families…I remember from my childhood the culture in Buenos Aires, the closed Catholic culture. I go over there, eh! A divorced family couldn’t enter the house, and I’m speaking of 80 years ago. The culture has changed, thanks be to God. Christians must ask forgiveness for many things, not just these. Forgiveness, not just apologies. Forgive, Lord. It’s a word that many times we forget. Now I’m a pastor and I’m giving a sermon. No, this is true, many times. Many times … but the priest who is a master and not a father, the priest who beats and not the priest who embraces, forgives and consoles. But there are many. There are many hospital chaplains, prison chaplains, many saints. But these ones aren’t seen. Because holiness is modest, it’s hidden. Instead it’s a little bit of blatant shamelessness, it’s blatant and you see so many organizations of good people and people who aren’t as good and people who … because you give a purse that’s a little big and look at you from the other side like the international powers with three genocides. We Christians – priests, bishops – we have done this. But also we Christians have Teresa of Calcutta and many Teresa of Calcuttas. We have many servants in Africa, many laity, many holy marriages. The wheat and the weeds. And so Jesus says that the Kingdom … we must not be scandalized for being like this. We must pray so that the Lord makes these weeds end and there is more grain. But this is the life of the Church. We can’t put limits. All of us are saints, because all of us have the Holy Spirit. But we are all sinners, me first of all! Alright. I don’t know if I have replied.
Here’s a video of the exchange (courtesy of Ed Pentin), because tone and facial expressions always convey more, in these interviews, than bare transcripts do:
Amidst that super-sized word salad are some key points, among them a reiteration of what Marx stated, and a reinforcement (rather than a corrective clarification) of Francis’ own controversial stance on this issue. Francis asserts that “One can condemn, [homosexual people/behaviors] but not for theological reasons…” Of course, this is absolutely false. Not only can we condemn sodomy, we must if we wish to exercise an authentic pastoral care and concern for souls. It is never an act of love to confirm people in their sin. An understanding the theological implications of sodomy — and in particular, why it is so offensive to God — is an important part of any effective approach to evangelization on this issue.
Going further, Francis insisted that the Church must “ask forgiveness to the gay person who is offended.” Not just to apologize, he made emphatically clear, but to seek pardon.
Forgiveness for what, exactly, Your Holiness? For keeping Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22-28, and Leviticus 20:13 in the Catholic Bible? Or for that matter, for including in the canon of the New Testament the passages of Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Timothy 1:9–10, and Jude 1:7? For classing sodomy as one of the four sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance? For consistently preaching that those who engage in sodomy should repent, so that they do not lose their eternal souls? For loving those who suffer from temptations to sodomy enough to call them to conversion?
St. Peter Damian, known for his Book of Gomorrah — an attempt to address widespread sexual perversion among the Catholics of his day — wrote a letter to Pope Nicholas II on the topic in 1059. Damian was unquestionably a man who loved souls and desired their conversion and repentance, but he made no bones about the obligation of those in positions of spiritual leadership as regards such sins. In direct contrast to the question, “Who am I to judge?” — which Francis has now publicly asked twice — St. Peter writes:
Clearly, just as those who punish faults are worthy of blessing, so those who coddle sinners are subject to a curse, as the prophet says: “Cursed be he that withholdeth his sword from blood.” Indeed, he who withholds his sword from blood is he who restrains himself from imposing the punishment of a proper sentence against evildoers. “Those who fail to correct are themselves guilty of the act.” If, therefore, Eli, only because of two sons whom he did not correct with a proper punishment, perished together with them and with such a great multitude of men, of what sentence do we think them to be worthy who preside in the palaces of the Church and in the seats of judgement, and who are silent in the face of the known offenses of depraved men?
The conflict here is undeniable. And only the latter approach is actually compatible with the explicit and longstanding teaching and practice of the Church.
It is worth noting that in an unrelated comment — part of an answer to journalist Edward Pentin’s question about how Brexit will affect Europe — the pope revealed a key to understanding his approach to Church governance. He said:
One recreates continuously. It is this that gives life, the desire to live, and gives fruitfulness.
Isn’t this a perfect description of his entire papacy? No stone left unturned. No doctrine left unmolested. Every novelty found desirable imposed. If you’ve been reaching for your Dramamine ever since March of 2013, you’re not alone. The pace of change has been dizzying, and relentless.
In another answer — a response to the Turkish government’s displeasure with the pope’s use of the term “genocide” in response to the early 20th-century Ottoman slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians — Francis appears to speak about a recall of the Turkish ambassador from the Vatican several months ago:
“He has the right…” the pope said, “The right to protest, we all have it.”
If he truly believes this, then he should not be troubled by our own protest at his remarks.
His acquiescence to supremacist homosexual ideology is unspeakably damaging to the Church. It especially hurts those who, like Joseph Sciambra, are trying to reach out to and evangelize those still trapped in a lifestyle that is destroying them body and soul. I asked Joseph in my last podcast (go to 48:48 in the timeline to hear the audio) about the impact of the original “Who am I to judge” statement from Pope Francis in the gay world:
Joseph: That certain message is in the gay community at large. Has it converted anybody over to Catholicism thinking that Catholicism’s become liberal? No, absolutely not. No, what it has is fed into a certain narrative, going back, Steve, where I was talking about these sort of toxic parishes, where you have gay affirmative…? It’s fed into that whole narrative. And I see it. Because I see the statements that they put out and I go to their meetings sometimes and their talks, and the narrative that they have is that the Church is changing. That the Church is just gonna reverse itself on all of these issues — gay marriage, all of it — this is what they honestly and earnestly believe. Because — and I’m not, again, I’m not blaming the guys in the pews — but this what they’ve been fed by…and you know what? When I came to the Church I could have moved into that direction, too, I don’t know. But just through the grace of God, and I met a good priest, I didn’t. But, um, you know that’s where it’s become a problem, is in these gay-friendly, gay-affirmative parishes, where all…where those sort of buzz words and things have…have caused a problem.
Steve: Do you think there’s more of that kind of thing happening maybe in more parishes now because people who were a little bit more hidden about it are now feeling more empowered?
Joseph: Oh yes. Oh yes. Because I can tell you that when Cardinal Ratzinger was pope, uh, they hated him. Hate. Hate, Hate, Hate. …it was just…
Joseph: yes…it was very palpable. Because he…they’d hate him because he put that whole disorder thing into the, the Church lexicon. And, um, when Francis came in it was a different…you know, whether their new belief in him was founded on, you know, on fact or fiction…but, you know, they believe that the old mean, you know, bigoted pope was out, and, you know, a new, you know, fresh, forward one was in. So. But this is…this has wrought, and my point is this has wrought disunity in the Church.
Joseph: And it’s very sad, because you have gay men and women who don’t know what to do. And it’s very off-putting. I could tell you, I don’t know if I would have come back to the Church if I, when leaving gay, knew this bizarre, you know, miasma was going on in the Church. Because it’s been very difficult to maneuver, and again, only through the grace of God have I been able to do it. But it’s very off-putting to people on the outside. It’s very difficult to overcome. Because I talk to these people in the gay community, and they don’t particularly like the Catholic Church for several reasons, and one of them is because it’s wildly inconsistent on this issue.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Joseph talked about his outreach at the San Francisco “Gay Pride” event yesterday — the largest such gathering in the world. (Pope Francis made his remarks during “Gay Pride Month,” on the anniversary of the legalization of “same-sex marriage” in the United States.) He spoke again of of the challenge he faced trying to reach people to bring them back into the Church:
[S]orry to say-but Catholicism (as it stands right now on the gay issue) is not particularly attractive – just today, it’s all conflicted and confused; to be honest, I can totally see how I threw myself into gay all those years ago after coming out of the post-conciliar happy Church of the 70s – now, I watch it happening all over again.
Today, I did not hear ONE single gay man who was raised Catholic tell me that he left the Church because the Church was too STRICT – it was because the Church was about as relevant as Madonna’s last few albums. Catholicism – be counter-cultural and you will be noticed.
The more the Church tries to be “pastoral” and “accompany” gay men – the more the Church will accompany gay men right into the gay community – we do not need apologies – we need the Truth and we need strength; after all – we are men.
The message is clear, from St. Peter Damian to men like Joseph Sciambra who have dedicated their lives to trying to save souls in the “gay community”: we cannot simply say nothing, or apologize for what we believe. When faced with any sin — but particularly those that do such grave damage to the soul and create a darkness that is hard to escape from — we must challenge the sinner to abandon the path that they are on, a path to death and destruction, and to embrace Christ’s life-giving love.
We must never apologize for that. To do so is a betrayal of the Great Commission.
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 seven children.