Another cardinal has expressed openness to lesbian and gay couples, and once again, the positive remarks come from someone who is very close to Pope Francis.
In a recent interview with the newspaper Zero Hora, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, the retired archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil, gave the following answer to the reporter who asked “If Jesus were alive today, would He be in favor of gay marriage?”:
“I do not know. I make no assumptions about it. The Church as a whole should answer that. We must take care not to be raising questions as individuals, because it ends up creating more trouble to get a conclusion that is valid. I think we have to get together, listen to the people, those who are involved in the issue. It is the Church that must indicate the paths, and there must be way for everyone.”
(Original Portugese: “Não sei, não faço nenhuma hipótese sobre isso. Quem deve responder isso é a Igreja em seu conjunto. Temos que cuidar para não ficar levantando questões individualmente, porque isso acaba criando mais dificuldades para a gente chegar numa conclusão que seja válida. Acho que a gente tem que se reunir, ouvir as pessoas, os próprios em jogo, os bispos. É a Igreja que deve indicar os caminhos, e deve haver caminho para todos.”)
Hummes’ statement is important because he is a close friend of Pope Francis. In the conclave, Hummes sat next to the future pope, and is reputed to have had a hand in encouraging his election. When Francis first appeared as pope to the crowds in St. Peter’s Square immediately following his election, Cardinal Hummes stood next to him. This accompaniment to the balcony was a break with tradition, as the new pope usually appears by himself.
Such a statement takes on more significance since the upcoming Synod on Marriage and Family in October will be examining the question of pastoral care for families headed by same-gender couples, and already a number of bishops have indicated that there must be more openness in this regard.
In the same interview, Hummes also affirmed the right of children of gay and lesbian couples to be baptized and the right of gay and lesbian people to be godparents at baptism:
“The godfather is one that should help educate the child religiously, and a person who has a [homo]sexual orientation can be a saint. If he lives the gospel within its conditions, he can be a saint.”
It is interesting that the cardinal emphasized the duty to “live the Gospel,” and not “church teaching,” which has been the phrase more often used in previous eras.
Hummes, who like the pope is a strong advocate of social justice, also served as the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy. When the reporter asked him what proposal he would make to the pope to renew the church, his answer was:
“Decentralization is key, in fact, to renew the Church.”
Next Magazine, which reported on the interview in English, editorialized about Hummes’ remarks:
“It’s probably unrealistic to hope the church really will be changing its stance that far. But taken together, Hummes’ and Francis’ remarks can be seen as at least an indication that the Vatican may be signaling that the overblown rhetoric from Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, who compared the city’s Pride marchers to the Ku Klux Klan and Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who compared same-sex marriage to slavery and child abuse.”
I may be more hopeful than Next Magazine. As I’ve noted before, I think these statements are like “test balloons,” and the fact that now so many cardinals and bishops are making them seems to indicate that something is brewing. I’m not sure it will be a big change, but I think it will be a step in the right direction.
As Next Magazine pointed out, the change in rhetoric is already a major step forward!
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry