Homosexuality, Pope Francis and the Catholic Church

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There has been a lot of discussion about the Church and it’s position on sexuality since Pope Francis’ well-documented plane conversation.

I think it’s helpful to remember that Catholic teaching about homosexuality (and many of the tough issues for that matter) is often misrepresented. A new documentary entitled “The Third Way” attempts to clarify such teachings. The documentary is meant to remind Catholics and non-Catholics alike that “To the extent that a homosexual tendency or inclination is not subject to one’s free will, one is not morally culpable for that tendency.”

So in discussing the tough issues, we have to remember that any Catholic teachings are about loving people. The sermon on the Mount reminds us that good moral choices, and not the free exercise of license, leads to happiness. If we can proceed in dialogue within those parameters, then we can have productive conversations and not tense ones. People on different sides of this issue may disagree on the destination, but the world must understand that the Church operates from a position of wanting the best for people. And the best isn’t about a series of arbitrary rules, but about the handing down of the truth about the good of the human person. This good has never changed since God loved us into being. This is about natural law.

Back to the documentary.

Talking about the confusion surrounding Church teaching on this topic, the film’s director Fr. John Hollowell says:

I think the biggest confusion is that good, faithful Catholics are often told very aggressively what it is that their Church believes by people who don’t truly understand our positions or our reasons for those positions.

The Church’s teachings on homosexuality and same-sex attraction are layered, nuanced, scientific, and based on authentic psychology. But most Catholics have not had the position stated to them clearly and articulately, so when those outside the Church seek to tell Catholics what they believe, most are unable to respond.

So right now it seems like the Church is attempting to teach the world the essence of its position by means of a softer outer shell. Fine. But the same secular world who points to Pope Francis’ words about homosexuality should research older church documents which have been pointing to the same truth years before Cardinal Bergoglio even became Pope Francis.

None of this is new.

For example it was an entire eight years ago that the USCCB affirmed what Pope Francis said earlier this year:

The Church teaches that persons with a homosexual inclination “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” We recognize that these persons have been, and often continue to be, objects of scorn, hatred, and even violence in some sectors of our society. Sometimes this hatred is manifested clearly; other times, it is masked and gives rise to more disguised forms of hatred. “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”

Those who would minister in the name of the Church must in no way contribute to such injustice. They should prayerfully examine their own hearts in order to discern any thoughts or feelings that might stand in need of purification. Those who minister are also called to growth in holiness. In fact, the work of spreading the Good News involves an ever-increasing love for those to whom one is ministering by calling them to the truth of Jesus Christ.

Ryan Bilodeau