Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

July 30, 2013

‘Who am I to judge?’ pope says of gay priests

ABOARD THE PAPAL AIRCRAFT — A remarkably candid Pope Francis struck a conciliatory stance toward gays Monday, saying “who am I to judge” when it comes to the sexual orientation of priests.

“We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society,” Francis said during an extraordinary 82-minute exchange with reporters aboard his plane returning from his first papal trip, to celebrate World Youth Day in Brazil.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” the pope asked.

Francis’ first news conference as pope was wide-ranging and open, touching on everything from the greater role he believes women should have in the Catholic Church to the troubled Vatican Bank.

While his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, responded to only a few pre-selected questions during his papal trips, Francis did not dodge a single query, even thanking the journalist who asked about reports of a “gay lobby” inside the Vatican and allegations that one of his trusted monsignors was involved in a gay tryst.

Francis said he investigated the allegations against the clergyman according to canon law and found nothing to back them up. He took journalists to task for reporting on the matter, saying it concerned issues of sin, not crimes like sexually abusing children. And when someone sins and confesses, he said, God not only forgives — he forgets.

“We don’t have the right to not forget,” he said.

While the comments did not signal a change in Catholic teaching that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered,” they indicated a shift in tone under Francis’ young papacy and an emphasis on a church that is more inclusive and merciful rather than critical and disciplinary.

Francis’ stance contrasted markedly with that of Benedict, who signed a document in 2005 that said men who had deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.

Gay leaders were buoyed by Francis’ approach, saying the change in tone was progress in itself, although for some the encouragement was tempered by Francis’ talk of gay clergy’s “sins.”

“Basically, I’m overjoyed at the news,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the U.S.-based New Ways Ministry, a group that promotes justice and reconciliation for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and the wider church community.

“For decades now, we’ve had nothing but negative comments about gay and lesbian people coming from the Vatican,” DeBernardo said in a telephone interview from Maryland.

The largest U.S. gay rights group, Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that the pope’s remarks “represent a significant change in tone.”

Still, said Chad Griffin, the HRC president, as long as gays “are told in churches big and small that their lives and their families are disordered and sinful because of how they were born — how God made them — then the church is sending a deeply harmful message.”

In Italy, the country’s first openly gay governor, Nichi Vendola, urged fellow politicians to learn a lesson from the pope.

“I believe that if politics had one-millionth of the capacity to ... listen that the pope does, it would be better able to help people who suffer,” he said.

Vendola praised the pope for drawing a clear line between homosexuality and pedophilia. “We know that a part of reactionary clerical thought plays on the confusion between these two completely different categories,” he said.

Francis also said he wanted a greater role for women in the church, though he insisted “the door is closed” to ordaining them as priests. In one of his most important speeches in Rio, Francis described the church in feminine terms, saying it would be “sterile” without women.

Funny and candid, Francis’ exchange with the media was exceptional. While Pope John Paul II used to have on-board talks with journalists, he would move about the cabin, chatting with individual reporters so it was hit-or-miss to hear what he said. After Benedict’s maiden foreign voyage, the Vatican insisted that reporters submit questions in advance so the theologian pope could choose three or four he wanted to answer with prepared comments.

Francis did not shy away from controversial topics, including reports suggesting that a group of gay clergymen exert undue influence on Vatican policy. Italian news media reported this year that the allegations of a so-called “gay lobby” contributed to Benedict’s decision to resign.

“A lot is written about this gay lobby. I still haven’t found anyone at the Vatican who has ‘gay’ on his business card,” Francis said, chuckling. “You have to distinguish between the fact that someone is gay and the fact of being in a lobby.”

The term “gay lobby” is bandied about with abandon in the Italian media and is decidedly vague. Interpretations of what it means have ranged from a group of celibate gay priests who are friends, to suggestions that a group of sexually active gay priests use blackmail to exert influence on Vatican decision-making.

Stressing that Catholic teaching calls for homosexuals to be treated with dignity and not marginalized, Francis said he would not condone anyone using private information for blackmail or to exert pressure.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit author and commentator, saw the pope’s remarks as a sign of mercy. “Today Pope Francis has, once again, lived out the Gospel message of compassion for everyone,” he said in an emailed statement.

Speaking in Italian with occasional lapses in his native Spanish, Francis dropped a few nuggets of news:

— He said he is thinking about traveling to the Holy Land next year and is considering invitations from Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

— The planned Dec. 8 canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will likely be changed — perhaps until the weekend after Easter — because road conditions in December would be dangerously icy for people from John Paul’s native Poland traveling to the ceremony by bus.

Francis also he solved the mystery that had been circulating since he was pictured boarding the plane to Rio carrying his own black bag, an unusual break with Vatican protocol.

“The keys to the atomic bomb weren’t in it,” Francis quipped, referring to the case that accompanies U.S. presidents with nuclear launch codes. The bag, he said, contained a razor, a prayer book, his agenda and a book on St. Terese of Lisieux, to whom he is particularly devoted.

“It’s normal” to carry a bag when traveling, he said, displaying a simplicity of style that separates him from previous pontiffs, who until a few decades ago were carried around on platforms.

“We have to get used to this being normal.”

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Mideast Iraq_Rich copy.jpg Iraq elects new president amid attacks

    Iraqi lawmakers elected a veteran Kurdish politician on Thursday to replace long-serving Jalal Talabani as the country’s new president in the latest step toward forming a new government. But a series of attacks killed dozens of people and Islamic militants destroyed a Muslim shrine traditionally said to be the burial place of the Prophet Jonah, underscoring the overwhelming challenges facing the divided nation.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hong Kong Shutdown_Rich copy.jpg Hong Kong firms on edge as blockade looms

    As activists vow to shut down Hong Kong’s financial district in protest at China’s attempt to hobble democratic elections in the city, businessman Bernard Chan is preparing for the worst.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Israel Palest_Rich copy.jpg UN school in Gaza caught in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP00072403324 copy.jpg Today in History for Friday, July 25, 2014

    Today is Friday, July 25, the 206th day of 2014. There are 159 days left in the year.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rebels release train with bodies from downed jet

    Bowing to international pressure, pro-Moscow separatists released a train packed with bodies and handed over the black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane, four days after it plunged into rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

    July 22, 2014

  • Gaza death toll rises as truce effort intensifies

    A high-level attempt by the U.N. chief and the U.S. secretary of state to end deadly Israel-Hamas fighting was off to a rough start Monday: Gaza’s Hamas rulers signaled they won’t agree to an unconditional cease-fire, Israel’s prime minister said he’ll do whatever is necessary to keep Israelis safe from Hamas attacks and the overall Palestinian death toll surpassed 560.

    July 22, 2014

  • AP110722023493 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, July 22, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, July 22, the 203rd day of 2014. There are 162 days left in the year.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Western Wildfires_Rich copy.jpg Helpful weather coming to Washington wildfires

    Cooler temperatures and lighter winds are forecast to descend on wildfire-stricken Washington state, helping firefighters battle flames that have been growing unfettered for a week and have covered hundreds of square miles.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today in History for Monday, July 21, 2014

    Today is Monday, July 21, the 202nd day of 2014. There are 163 days left in the year.

    July 21, 2014

  • James Garner Obit_Rich(1) copy.jpg Film, TV legend James Garner, reluctant hero, dies

    Few actors could register disbelief, exasperation or annoyance with more comic subtlety.
    James Garner had a way of widening his eyes while the corner of his mouth sagged ever so slightly. Maybe he would swallow once to further make his point.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

School starts again in about two weeks. What do you think?

It's still summer. School starts too soon.
Seems like the right time to return.
Abolish summer recess. Make school year-round.
     View Results