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The Pope Defies Church Doctrine

Will the pope's sentiments on same-sex civil unions threaten church doctrine; the outcry says otherwise.

November 9, 2020

The catechism of the Catholic Church, in defining Homosexuality, begins the chapter discussing Chastity as a moral virtue. The chaste man or woman “maintains integrity of the powers of life and love.” Simply stated, chastity is personal integrity and purity in conduct and intention. It is also “a gift from God, a grace and a fruit of spiritual effort.”

The catechism defines homosexuality as exclusive sexual attraction between men or between women of the same sex. It goes on to say that it has assumed a variety of forms over the centuries in various cultures. Its psychological genesis remains unexplained; however “the inclination is objectively a disordered condition.” But these are children of God and must be accepted with “respect, compassion and sensitivity, and every sign of discrimination in their regard must be avoided for they are called, if Christians, to fulfill God’s will in their lives.”

The homosexual is called to lead a life of chastity, “By virtue of self-mastery that teaches them inner freedom through prayer and sacramental grace; they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection, conjugal love.” The catechism goes on to discuss in further detail many more aspects of marriage and sexuality.

This brief summary is intended to act as a precursor to what many believe could be a revelation in the church of epic proportions. It has just been made public that in a 2019 interview, part of a documentary that was recently made its debut in Rome, Pope Francis expressed his acceptance of same-sex civil unions, unlike pontiffs who came before him. The comments were part of a script that included other issues of discussion: the pandemic, women’s rights, sexual abuse, racism, LGBTQ, and immigration.

Pope Francis in his remarks stated “Homosexuals have a right to be part of the family, and they are children of God. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.” He went on to say “What we have to create is a civil union law, that way they’re legally covered.” The documentary is called “Francesco” and was directed by the Oscar-nominated filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky for the Mexican broadcaster Televisa.

The responses to the pope’s remarks were swift and deliberate. American cardinals and bishops have come out and openly criticized the pope for his defiance of church teaching and dogma. The pope’s opinion was received with praise in progressive quarters, but was widely denounced among clergy and laity. The Reverend Paul Sullins, a conservative sociology professor at the Catholic University of America, said the pope’s remarks “Directly contradict the Catholic Church’s most recent teaching on this matter.” The reverend cited a 2003 Vatican document approved by Pope St. John Paul II that implicitly states, “The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke, often a critic of the pope, said his comments on the LGBTQ issue should be “Rightly interpreted as simple private opinions of the person who made them.” The cardinal in his statement went on to say “Such declarations generate great bewilderment and cause confusion and error among Catholic faithful.”

Bishop Thomas Tobin joined the voices of dissent “The pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the Church about same-sex unions.” Bishop Joseph Strickland’s remarks took on an even greater degree of concern calling the pope’s support of same-sex unions “confusing and very dangerous, and is just Pope Francis’ opinion.”

In a lengthy rebuke of the pope, Bishop Athenacious Schneider stated, in part, “Those who advocate same-sex civil unions are therefore also culpable of creating a kind of structure of sin, in this case of the juridical structure of habitual fornication against nature, since homosexual acts belong to sins that cry to heaven, as the catechism of the Catholic Church says.”

These are but a select few of the responses to the pope’s remarks. As you have read, the outcry has been intense. As I have stated previously there were plaudits from progressive groups, even a few members of the clergy defended the pope’s right to his opinion, but these did not in any way suggest change in Church doctrine or teaching.

Furthermore, a majority of Catholics lean conservative; the pope’s comments will not be accepted by most of the faithful. What I believe they will do however is to cause confusion within the Church, an uncertainty among Catholics that if the pope, infallible and Christ’s vicar on earth, accepts this deviant lifestyle that is antithetical to Church doctrine, then perhaps the catechism should be revised, and the Church change doctrine to accept same-sex unions. If this should ever happen, God forbid, I believe it will create a schism within the Church that would be catastrophic.  

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