Christians should apologize for helping to marginalize gays, pope says

| Cindy Wooden | June 27, 2016 | 5 Comments
Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. CNS/Paul Haring

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. CNS/Paul Haring

Catholics and other Christians not only must apologize to the gay community, they must ask forgiveness of God for ways they have discriminated against homosexual persons or fostered hostility toward them, Pope Francis said.

“I think the Church not only must say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women” and anyone whom the Church did not defend when it could, he told reporters June 26 aboard a papal flight from Armenia.

Spending close to an hour answering questions from reporters traveling with him, Pope Francis was asked to comment on remarks reportedly made a few days previously by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, that the Catholic Church must apologize to gay people for contributing to their marginalization.

At the mention of the massacre in early June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Pope Francis closed his eyes as if in pain and shook his head in dismay.

“The Church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times — when I say the ‘Church,’ I mean we Christians because the Church is holy; we are the sinners,” the pope said. “We Christians must say we are sorry.”

Changing what he had said in the past to the plural “we,” Pope Francis said that a gay person, “who has good will and is seeking God, who are we to judge him?”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear, he said. “They must not be discriminated against. They must be respected, pastorally accompanied.”

The pope said people have a right to complain about certain gay-pride demonstrations that purposefully offend the faith or sensitivities of others, but that is not what Cardinal Marx was talking about, he said.

Pope Francis said when he was growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of a “closed Catholic culture,” good Catholics would not even enter the house of a person who was divorced. “The culture has changed and thanks be to God!”

“We Christians have much to apologize for and not just in this area,” he said, referring again to its treatment of homosexual persons. “Ask forgiveness and not just say we’re sorry. Forgive us, Lord.”

Too often, he said, priests act as lords rather than fathers, “a priest who clubs people rather than embraces them and is good, consoles.”

Pope Francis insisted there are many good priests in the world and “many Mother Teresas,” but people often do not see them because “holiness is modest.”

Like any other community of human beings, the Catholic Church is made up of “good people and bad people,” he said. “The grain and the weeds — Jesus says the kingdom is that way. We should not be scandalized by that,” but pray that God makes the wheat grow more and the weeds less.

Pope Francis also was asked about his agreeing to a request by the women’s International Union of Superiors General to set up a commission to study the historic role of female deacons with a view toward considering the possibility of instituting such a ministry today.

Both Sister Carmen Sammut, president of the sisters’ group, and Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, have sent him lists of names of people to serve on the commission, the pope said. But he has not yet chosen the members.

As he did at the meeting with the superiors, Pope Francis told the reporters that his understanding was that women deacons in the early Church assisted bishops with the baptism and anointing of women, but did not have a role like Catholic deacons do today.

The pope also joked about a president who once said that the best way to bury someone’s request for action was to name a commission to study it.

Turning serious, though, Pope Francis insisted the role of women in the Catholic Church goes well beyond any offices they hold and he said about 18 months ago he had named a commission of female theologians to discuss women’s contributions to the life of the Church.

“Women think differently than we men do,” he said, “and we cannot make good, sound decisions without listening to the women.”

During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis also said:

  • He believes “the intentions of Martin Luther” were not wrong in wanting to reform the Church, but “maybe some of his methods were not right.” The Church in the 1500s, he said, “was not exactly a model to imitate.”
  • He used the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-18 because that was the word commonly used in his native Argentina and he had already used it publicly a year ago. Although he said he knew Turkey objects to use of the term, “it would have sounded strange” not to use it in Armenia.
  • Retired Pope Benedict XVI is a “wise man,” a valued adviser and a person dedicated to praying for the entire Church, but he can no longer be considered to be exercising papal ministry. “There is only one pope.”
  • “Brexit,” the referendum in which the people of Great Britain voted to leave the European Union, shows just how much work remains to be done by the EU in promoting continental unity while respecting the differences of member countries.
  • The Great and Holy Council of the world’s Orthodox churches was an important first step in Orthodoxy speaking with one voice, even though four of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches did not attend the meeting in Crete.
  • When he travels to Azerbaijan in September, he will tell the nation’s leaders and people that the Armenian leaders and people want peace. The two countries have been in a situation of tension since 1988 over control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.



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  • Dennis

    Surprised to see this news item posted in the Catholic Spirit.

    Kudos at least for that.

    May the Holy Father’s words embolden others in the Church, especially key others
    locally, to speak and act with a similar openness. (And, dare I say, thoughtfulness.)

    • therain

      I’m not apologizing to anyone.

  • Mike Sturm

    What the hell is wrong with this guy!!! I am constantly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt about these kinds of comments but the evidence is just irrefutable – he is just the latest in the current line of liberals that is willing to call the wrong right, the upside side down, right dide up>. I am so done with the lemming like praise of this man as a fresh voice, he is nothing more than then the just another moral relativist!

  • Charles C.

    As always, I am confused. Apparently he is calling on me to apologize for offending homosexuals. What makes him think I have? The same holds true for the poor and suffering, and anyone who needs comfort. How have I offended them? Had he simple asked us to pray about it and seek forgiveness where necessary, I could have understood his message.

    And what, exactly, is “offense?” If I write that homosexual activity is a sin and should be discouraged or else the loss of Eternal Life is a real possibility (excepting the action of God’s mercy), is that causing offense?

    And what if I write that the CDC reports that homosexual men have higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases, drug use, depression, and suicide? And that, even though there are few homosexual men in the country, the CDC reports that they account for 60% of the new HIV cases? And that lesbians suffer a higher rate of sexual violence victimization than heterosexual women. Are those statements offensive?

    If I write that Blacks kill at a higher rate than than Whites, is that an offense? May I quote the FBI report that says that despite a much smaller percentage of the population, there are roughly the same number of Black murderers as White? (2698 v. 2755)

    If I write that most terrorist deaths, by far, are at the hands of Muslims, is that an offense?

    If I believe that “Illegal alien” is the technically correct term, is that an offense?

    If I note that, for the eighth straight year, births to unmarried women in this country exceed 40% of the total births, is that an offense?

    Should I not say these things? Or should I use “nicer” sounding words to say them?

  • therain

    I’m not apologizing to anyone!