Pope’s comments on blessing same-sex couples and gay men in seminaries are not as shocking as some think

By Michael Sean Winters, 30 May 2024
Pope Francis is seen in prayer in St Peter's Basilica. Image: Vatican Media


The full ambivalence of Pope Francis’ pastoral approach to the issue of homosexuality has come into view, first during his television interview with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, and now with the news that he told the Italian bishops’ conference that gay men should not be allowed to enter the seminary. Is this the same pope who, early in his pontificate, when asked about a gay clergyman who keeps his vows, asked rhetorically, “Who am I to judge?”

Yes, it is.

The idea that the pope has suddenly revealed his hidden bigotry towards gay persons, which seems to be the consensus on social media, is ridiculous. Nothing about this man or his papacy suggests he is bigoted towards anyone.

Whence, then, this ambivalence in the pope’s statements? How did he go from “Who am I to judge?” to this? It has to do with the inherent conflict of his position as pope. He is the universal pastor of the church and he is the defender of Christian doctrine. He wants to help people grow closer to God, and knows that accompanying them, not judging them, is the best way to achieve that. He also believes what the church teaches.

It is this last point that the activists on both sides forget. His critics have feared he was seeking to undermine the church’s moral teaching, on this and other issues, even though it was obvious all along that what he was doing was placing that moral teaching within a pastoral context, not as the price of admission to a pastoral context. Others thought he was moving slowly for political reasons, that once he got the church to swallow pastoral accompaniment, it would be easier to get it to swallow a change in moral teaching. That, too, misrepresented the pope’s approach.

To continue reading this article, click here.

With thanks to the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and Michael Sean Winters, where this article originally appeared.


Read Daily
* indicates required