In a new book, an Italian cardinal has offered his perspective on Pope Francis’ approach to homosexuality and the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Matteo Zuppi of Bolgona, Italy, helped pen the prologue of Chiesa e omosessualità, Un’inchiesta alla luce dela magistero di papa Francesco (Church and Homosexuality: An Investigation in Light of the Magisterium of Pope Francis), reported Religion News Service.
The book is authored by Luciano Moia, editor of the Italian Bishops Conference’s newspaper L’Avvenire, and is published by San Paolo, a church publishing company. In the book, Moia interviews theologians and LGBTQ Catholics on a variety of topics.
Interviewed by Moia, Zuppi sought to welcome LGBTQ Catholics and other people who feel excluded from the church:
“When communities will truly begin to look at people as God looks at them, then homosexual people — and everybody else — will begin to feel, naturally, a part of the ecclesial community.”
Archbishop Zuppi’s analysis began with Pope Francis’ statement about homosexuality in his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia:
“[E]very person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration.”
The cardinal further emphasized that the pope understands that each human person has their own individual relationship with God:
“‘The Pope, and the Church with him, isn’t interested in leading people to follow external rules,’ Zuppi said. ‘His interest is in helping people do the will of God; meaning to enter a personal relationship with God and hear from him the appropriate Word for each life.’ . . .
“‘We mustn’t relativize the law,’ he said, ‘but make it relevant to the concrete person, with their own peculiarities.’
“When asked about creating spiritual guidance programs tailored specifically to members of the LGBT community, Zuppi said it’s more important to have a ‘specific outlook on people,’ regardless of their characteristics.”
To honor that uniqueness, Archbishop Zuppi underscored that the “diversity of each person is a gift for the community,” enhancing the church’s desire for greater ecclesial inclusivity.
Importantly, if not perfectly, Zuppi affirmed that sexual orientation is an innate part of a person’s identity and is not grounds for exclusion:
“Regardless of the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality, Zuppi specified that the doctrine distinguishes between sexual orientation and homosexual acts.
“‘What we cannot “welcome” is the sin expressed in an act,’ he said. ‘Sexual orientation – which nobody “chooses” – isn’t necessarily an act. Also, it’s not separable from the identity of the person; by welcoming a person we cannot overlook their (sexual) orientation.’”
Archbishop Zuppi’s reflections were not without criticism towards the church. Novena News reported:
“Cardinal Zuppi lamented a particular neglect the Church has fallen into: that of the lack of a ‘profound listening to the person in his or her life situation.’
“‘And even if a person leads a lifestyle contrary to God’s law, shouldn’t we accept them?”, Zuppi also asked, alleging as justification for that position Christ’s own attitude with ‘sinners’.”
Zuppi’s synthesis of Pope Francis’ theological approach towards LGBTQ people is a big step forward in the conversation around these issues in the church.
“His comments show that the pope’s method on these issues is to promote greater pastoral dialogue with individual people,” said Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry executive director. “While this may not sound like much, let’s remember that very few church leaders have even done this little for LGBTQ people.”
The conversation cannot stop here, though. Church leaders need to address that doctrinally divorcing acts from orientation denigrates LGBTQ people. Highlighting the church’s teachings on dignity, diversity, and inclusion are good, but they have to be the first step, not the last one, in a much more substantial discussion.
—Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, May 29, 2020