Pope Francis Preaches for ‘Open Doors’ to Welcome All

Pope Francis

A stark contrast to the actions of  members of the US hierarchy lately, Pope Francis is preaching a gospel of tolerance from the Vatican leaving many commentators and Catholics wondering what implications this will have. Whereas Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is quite literally closing the cathedral doors to LGBT Catholics and failing their pastoral needs, the pope is demanding that every church’s doors be open wide to anyone who seeks Jesus Christ.

Kevin Clarke at America calls Pope Francis a “human pastoral quote machine” when he reports on the pope’s recent morning Mass homily about welcoming all:

” ‘Today’s mildly rebuked pharisees are the self-appointed pastoral border guards who hold up a hand in consternation instead of offering one in welcome when the less-than-perfect among us seek to gate crash at the house of the lord. ‘There is always a temptation,’ Pope Francis warned, ‘to try and take possession of the Lord.’ The pope spoke of an unofficial ‘8th’ sacrament created by parish gatekeepers to throw up obstacles to those they deem unworthy…

“Pope Francis said, ‘Jesus is indignant when he sees’ such efforts to block people from sacramental life because those who suffer are ‘his faithful people, the people that he loves so much.’ “

Michael Sean Winters of National Catholic Reporter analyzes this homily, and identifies two challenges that Francis lays at the feet of American bishops: what it means to be a pastor and the limits of theology. He quotes the pope as saying:

“‘Jesus is indignant when he sees these things [Catholics being excluded]’ – said the Pope – because those who suffer are ‘his faithful people, the people that he loves so much’

“‘We think today of Jesus, who always wants us all to be closer to Him, we think of the Holy People of God, a simple people, who want to get closer to Jesus and we think of so many Christians of goodwill who are wrong and that instead of opening a door they close the door of goodwill … So we ask the Lord that all those who come to the Church find the doors open, find the doors open, open to meet this love of Jesus.’

Winters questions prelates like Archbishop Charles Chaput who exclude a child from Catholic elementary school for having lesbian mothers. He notes the false torment of Catholic parishes and dioceses around the recent Boy Scouts of America decision to allow gay youth. Ultimately, he concludes that the pope’s message should change this dynamic by making clergy more about love than rules.

The second challenge from Pope Francis is a critique of intellectualizing faith, as if theology provides every answer and all guidance. Too often the LGBT community is greeted with technical terms and strict categorizations from priests bound by out-dated theology, not pastoral love. Winters writes in summary:

“Papa Francesco is challenging all of us, across the board, to re-think our attitudes and our ideologies, our certainties and our prejudices…It seems like the Holy Father is becoming the world’s parish priest, and I hope the actual parish priests (and their bishops) will follow his example. He is welcoming. He is challenging. He is straight forward. But, most of all, he is loving.”

In loving and inviting all who seek our Catholic community, Pope Francis provides an alternative to the standard policy of exclusion found in too many parishes and dioceses. He claims Jesus is “indignant” when Catholics cannot access the sacramental life of the Church, the opposite of what Detroit Archbishop Vigneron said when he told told Catholics who support marriage equality to stay away from communion. The pope is preaching words of welcome, just as many are asking, “Can LGBT Catholics find a home in the Church?”  This question can be answered positively if bishops around the world are listening to Rome, and on this matter, we must hope they are.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

19 replies
  1. Maryann
    Maryann says:

    As an ex-Catholic, mother of a gay son, I say nothing short of the pope demanding that each and every Catholic bishop, cardinal, priest, deacon, and lay person, be supportive, welcoming, sensitive, loving and caring to gay persons, is not enough. Actions speak louder than words. Perhaps he can lead by example by allowing openly gay people to minister in the Vatican.

    Reply
    • Annette Magjuka
      Annette Magjuka says:

      I totally agree. And gay Catholics deserve nothing less than full participation in the Catholic faith, including all sacraments. Matrimony is a sacrament, by the way. PS No one can be an ex-Catholic. Some are nonpracticing Catholics, or lapsed Catholics. Some are waiting for an environment where discrimination is not a requirement for membership in a parish. For example, no one should be barred from mass with police force, Cardinal Dolan!

      Reply
      • Maryann
        Maryann says:

        Catholic with a capital “C”. Some may be waiting; but for others like myself and my gay son, it is too late. The damage has been done. For the sake of my other children and grandchildren, who remain in the Catholic Church, I hope and pray that the Pope continues to preach about the Catholic Church becoming welcoming and pastoral to all people. However, I do believe he needs to specifically mention the treatment of LGBT persons by the Catholic Church.

        Reply
    • Annette Magjuka
      Annette Magjuka says:

      I totally understand. There are so many things that are hurtful at the level of “the last straw.” What I mean by your still being Catholic is that you and your son are, of course, still part of the body of Christ. You are both loved. Those of us who are social justice Catholics have been hurt by the sexism of the church, the unloving responses by some parish priests, bishops, cardinals and Benedict. Pope Francis talks the talk. I love that. But I agree that full inclusion is what needs to happen–for women, for gay people, for all of us. Please accept my support and love in Christ.

      Reply
  2. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    YES:

    ” ‘Today’s mildly rebuked pharisees are the self-appointed pastoral border guards who hold up a hand in consternation instead of offering one in welcome when the less-than-perfect among us seek to gate crash at the house of the lord. ‘There is always a temptation,’ Pope Francis warned, ‘to try and take possession of the Lord.’ The pope spoke of an unofficial ’8th’ sacrament created by parish gatekeepers to throw up obstacles to those they deem unworthy…

    “Pope Francis said, ‘Jesus is indignant when he sees’ such efforts to block people from sacramental life because those who suffer are ‘his faithful people, the people that he loves so much.’ “

    Reply
  3. Larry Quirk
    Larry Quirk says:

    I applaud the Pope loudly [as I did not do for his predecessor] when he speaks the language of inclusion and I will cheer even louder when he takes concrete steps to have the Church do the same. But you can see the tension from the hierarchy like Cardinal Dolan. He, as a company man, wants to follow his boss’s lead to be in line with the new authority but he just cant do it because it is not in his heart. It is the hearts of the hierarchy that I hope the Pope can change.

    Reply
    • David J. Martin
      David J. Martin says:

      Perhaps Francis I recalls Acts of the Apostles in which it is stated by the Apostles (paraphrased) that we (the Apostles) must always take our lead from the faithful, for it is with the faithful that the Holy Spirit dwells and guides us”. The Church fails to be Body of Christ when ANY PERSON is excluded.

      Reply
  4. Raph Martin
    Raph Martin says:

    Perhaps this Pope, in contrast to his predecessors, will open himself to dialog with his fellow Catholics particularly in the area of homosexuality rather than continue the official Church’s intransigency where same sex relationships are concerned. Maybe he will be the one to see through the dogmatic opinions on sexuality based on biblical literalism which a clerical celibate culture has imposed on gay men and women. Maybe he will be the one Holy Father who welcomes diversity in the Church-affirming the right of gay and lesbian members to live out their sexual lives in holy unions as do heterosexual married couples. Maybe with the keys of his authority he will be the one to turn the inside lock and open doors which have been shut to gays and lesbians for centuries. If Christ passed through closed doors and calmed the fearful disciples, perhaps he will do so again in a Francis who will bring a message of peace to both fearful and longing hearts!

    Reply
    • nana1954
      nana1954 says:

      Maybe Pope Francis is a closet Methodist! God bless him for having an “Open Mind, Open Heart, and (hopefully) Open Doors!”

      Reply

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  4. […] J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia has a less positive record on LGBT issues. He is noted for ejecting children with same-gender parents access […]

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