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On Plane Back to Rome: What Did the Pope Really Say about Homosexual Practice vs. Media Hype

By Deacon Keith Fournier
July 30th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

On his return from the historic World Youth Day in RIO de JANEIRO, Pope Francis had an informal conversation with journalists aboard the plane. In the midst of a warm and even humorous dialogue, he expressed the teaching of the Catholic Church - and the Sacred Scripture - concerning mercy and forgiveness. A part of that liberating teaching is that when someone repents of sin, they should not only be forgiven - but their past failure should be forgotten.  Of course, that involves any sin, including sexual sin. Yes, even homosexual acts, which are sinful and always morally disordered.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On his return from the historic World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis had an informal conversation with journalists aboard the plane. In the midst of a warm and even humorous dialogue, he expressed the teaching of the Catholic Church - and the Sacred Scripture - concerning mercy and forgiveness.

A part of that liberating teaching is that when someone repents of sin, they should not only be forgiven - but their past failure should be forgotten.  Of course, that involves any sin, including sexual sin. Yes, even homosexual acts, which are always sinful and always morally disordered.

He affirmed that those who struggle with same sex attraction should be treated with human dignity and given the respect due to all human persons. There is absolutely nothing new or newsworthy in these comments. The Pope indicated that if someone struggles with same sex attraction, including a priest, but "searches for the Lord and has good will", he will not judge them. He will treat them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers these clear words: "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved."

"This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They 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."

"Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection." (CCC #2357-2359)

Nonetheless, some in the media chose to turn the compassionate comments of Francis into an insinuation that he somehow veered from the teaching of the Church. Of course, it is simply not true. For Catholics, one of the treasures of being a Catholic Christian is that there is a magisterium, a teaching office. Even the Pope cannot change revealed truth. For a more accurate and objective main stream report on the warm and candid conversation, I recommend  the report filed by Nicole Windfield of the Associated Press.

Among the clearest summaries of Catholic teaching on this matter was that set forth by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the leadership of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) in the "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons" promulgated in 1986. It cannot be changed. It will not changed. Here are a few of the paragraphs in this important instruction:

"The Church, obedient to the Lord who founded her and gave to her the sacramental life, celebrates the divine plan of the loving and live-giving union of men and women in the sacrament of marriage. It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behavior therefore acts immorally."

"To choose someone of the same sex for one's sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator's sexual design. Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent".

"As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one's own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood."

Again, this moral teaching cannot and will not change. And, to use Pope Francis' term in the interview, groups which lobby, in open defiance of this teaching, undermine the authority of the Church, confuse those who struggle with same sex attraction and scandalize the faithful. Finally, they confuse the public as to what the Catholic Church actually teaches.

They are often pushing what I have called a Homosexual Equivalency Movement - which goes way beyond respecting the human dignity of homosexual persons.

Some now insist that the Civil Law of the Nation create a legal and moral equivalency between true marriages and cohabitating practicing homosexuals. In these efforts they are led by well funded and strategic groups such as the Human Rights Campaign in the United States.

The proponents of such a cultural revolution use language as a weapon. They have shifted the popular argument with words which they have stolen and claimed as their own. Now, instead of defending marriage against those who seek to undermine it by making any cohabiting relationships its equivalent, the dominant media culture is using the homosexual equivalency movement's language of marriage equality.

Homosexual equivalency activists have even persuaded many to say that there is a new civil right for those who engage in homosexual practices and live under the same roof to be married. The "bad guys" in some circles are now those who defend authentic marriage and insist that it is the best foundation for civil society. The "intolerant" are now those who refuse to recognize such new "rights", like the "right to marry" for people who are incapable of fulfilling the ends of marriage.

By the way, that group of intolerant bad guys includes Pope Francis.

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