What can we learn from Pope Francis on homosexuality?

What the Catholic Catechism says about chastity and homosexuality

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. 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. (2357)

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. 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 fulfil 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. (2358)

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.(2359)

Pope Francis’ recent remarks on homosexuality

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods…. The teaching of the church … is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

“I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’, because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this.”

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person … In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation.”(Excerpts from Pope Francis’ recent interview with Italian Jesuit magazine)

Has Pope Francis changed the position of the Catholic Church on homosexuality?

In my opinion, Pope Francis’ statements does not represent a change in the Catholic Church’s stand on abortion, homosexuality or contraceptive methods. It represents an attempt by the Pope to reform the image in which the Catholic Church has been perceived: that of an unfeeling moralizing institution without a heart. He is concerned that the Catholic Church insists that abortion is wrong and that homosexuality and gay marriage is wrong, (which Evangelicals agree), and that the only right contraceptive method is the natural rhythm method (which Evangelicals disagree), but it does not seem to care about weightier issues like respecting and accepting the human being, and the pain of poverty, respectively, in those contexts. He wants the Catholic Church to show its gentler side. He wants her to view all human beings with dignity and as persons that God loves.

The Church is to be the face of God. She is to reflect a Christ that mingles with outcasts and has compassion on the marginalized, treating them with acceptance, love and reconciliation. The church is to reflect the message of reconciliation it preaches, which is primarily one of God’s mercy and grace. People will then realize how untrue is their perception that the church is full of upright people of superior moral standing with pointed fingers that upbraid wrong-doing. We are a people with many weaknesses but recipients of God’s manifold grace: a forgiven community welcoming all who also need forgiveness.

Pope Francis does not want the Catholic Church to be perceived as strident and preachy as that would be counter-productive in convincing people of the truth of its positions. He is still a “son of the church” – he still holds to the Catholic dogma, or he wouldn’t be Pope. He is more concerned about harsh condemning attitudes towards wrongdoers and the wrong perceptions the world has of the Church.

We Singapore evangelicals can certainly learn something from this Pope.

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