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Eminence, the emeritis cardinal archbishop of HGN

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Few Thoughts On The Pope's Airplane Presser

I am in the “yes and no” group of those commenting on the significance of Pope Francis’ statement that he would not judge gay priests. It is significant that Francis used the word “gay”. It is probably the first time, as many news reports are saying, that a pope has publically used the word. I think that is significant. 

I remember when I first started to use the word “gay” to describe myself and how the word would get stuck in my throat. Over the years I could talk about myself as homosexual because I was aware of my orientation from a pretty early age; but using the word gay to describe myself at mid life as I was really in the process of trying to  own and integrate my sexuality in a more profound way was a big step. A friend of mine describing my journey said that I not only opened the closet door but ripped the door off the hinges. 

Pope Francis’ use of the word “gay” is also significant, if it is true, that as the archbishop of Buenos Aires he was supportive of gay civil unions as a compromise in the movement toward full marriage equality. Taken together the pope’s use of the word “gay” and his seeming support for civil unions gets us past the US bishops’ fit, called a “fortnight of freedom”. It also gets past Cardinal Dolan’s “dirty Freddy” analogy.

It is significant, too, if finally the pope’s use of the word “gay” gets beyond the “intrinsic disorder” characterization that Cardinal Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI, used to describe the homosexual orientation.

I don’t think the pope’s use of the word “gay” is significant unless he will find some other way to update other parts of the church’s understanding of sexuality. The news reports all seemed to indicate that Francis’ use of the word “gay” was situated within references to the Universal Catechism stating that all homosexual acts are wrong and the fact that the ordination of women was settled.

It seems like a step forward has been taken. It might be akin to some cardinal saying to himself four hundred years ago that maybe it is true that the sun is the center of the universe. It only took four hundred years for the church to come around and apologize to Galileo for his mistreatment by the church at the truth he spoke. I hope the church’s updating of its understanding of sexuality does not take as long. 


  1. Father Bob, as always, is perceptive, and right.

  2. Good comparison. I'm still watching from a distance, with not much hope of institutional change, in spite of the welcome symbolic changes.

  3. Hi BB...There still seems to be hope amid all the waiting. One article I read in Spiegle called the new pope eccentric with cardinals wondering whether they elected a guy who really believe what he preaches. I was amused that the same article said that Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of State, learned about Francis' trip to Lampadusa from a Vatican press release. I have to agree that many of bloggers I have read lately also think there is not much hope for institutional reform. Lately I have been wondering who the bishops are leading. Maybe it's time for the laity to rise up and say they have had enough. Let the revolution begin and usher in a Catholic Spring.