Where does Pope Francis really stand on homosexuality? That question is raised in a new way after news both that he affirmed a gay man’s sexual identity as created by God while concurrently warning against gay men entering the priesthood.
News broke this week that in a closed-door meeting with Italian bishops this month, the pope allegedly affirmed an existing Vatican ban on gay men entering the priesthood. Reuters reported Francis as saying:
“‘Keep an eye on the admissions to seminaries, keep your eyes open. . .If in doubt, better not let them [gay men] enter.'”
Crux added in its report on the topic:
“A report by Vatican Insider says Francis told the Italian prelates: ‘These tendencies, when they are “deeply rooted,” and the practice of homosexual acts, can compromise the life of the seminary beyond that of the young man himself and his eventual future priesthood.’”
Given the private nature of Francis’ remarks, the Vatican has not commented on the veracity of this report. But the president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, seemed to confirm that Francis mentioned the issue of homosexuality during the meeting in a discussion of Italy’s priestly vocation crisis, according to Crux.
Crux also reported that Pope Francis commented on gay men in the priesthood while writing to the Chilean bishops about sexual abuse by clergy this month. In the document, the pope wrote that gay priests should not be involved in seminary education because there are:
“‘grave accusations against some bishops or superiors who [allegedly] entrusted to these education institutions priests suspected of active homosexuality.’”
In December 2016, the Vatican’s Congregation for Priests released a document titled “The Gift of Priestly Vocation,” which reaffirmed a 2005 ban on the ordination of gay men. Catholics reacted strongly, including hundreds of signatures for New Ways Ministry’s “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocation” statement.
News about Francis’ statements on gay priests came the same week he was lauded for telling a gay man and survivor of clergy abuse, Juan Carlos Cruz, that “God made you like this.” Taking these two headlines together, this moment once again highlights the pope’s ambiguous stance on homosexuality.
As has happened before, in both of these cases the pope’s alleged statements come from third parties without any verification from the Vatican. Catholics are left with more questions than answers. Does Pope Francis believe lesbian and gay people are created that way by a God who loves them? Or is homosexuality a matter of “deeply rooted” tendencies threatening–an idea which reduces people to their potential for genital activity? Perhaps there is a certain dissonance within the pope himself whereby he somehow holds both positions, at least partially?
Whatever the answers to these questions, the people of God deserve more than unverified third party accounts. They deserve clear statements from the pope himself. These need not be answers nor definitive teaching, and could readily acknowledge complexity. But at the very least they should be transparent and clear about what Pope Francis has actually said and not said.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 26, 2018