“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and his good will, who am I to judge?” - Pope Francis on board the papal plane while returning from the World Youth Day in Brazil.
The media are quick to take the Pope’s remark above to mean that the Church is showing signs of backing down from its position against homosexuality; that after the election of a new Pope the Church is now back paddling on this very touchy issue; and that unlike his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI who taught that people with homosexual inclination should not be allowed to become priests, the new Pope is reaching out to the gay clerics. This is a typical example of how people are inclined to hear the way they want to hear.
It’s no secret that the media and the secular world dislike the Church’s teaching against homosexuality, i.e. its teaching that the homosexual acts are "acts of grave depravity" and that they are “intrinsically disordered” (CCC #2357). They also believe - in a very ignorant and naïve way, I must add - that given the pressure and momentum of the worldwide gay movement, which has won battle after battle in the courts of law and legislatures, the Roman Catholic Church and its “bigoted view” against homosexuality will eventually buckle. As a result, anything that the new Pope says that bears the remotest resemblance of a friendly comment on the issue of homosexuality will immediately be reported - or misreported - as the Church changing its position.
If one reads the Pope’s remark more closely, one will realize that what he says is really nothing new. Following the Scripture, the Church has always maintained that God, who is merciful and kind, will always forgive a sinner if he truly repents his sins and opts to follow God’s will (cf. Mt. 4:17, 1 John 1:9). What the Pope is saying is that if someone repents the sins of his gay behaviors and chooses to follow the will of God, which is for the homosexual persons to exercise self-mastery and live in chastity (CCC #2359), who am I – Pope Francis – to say that God will not forgive?
One pro-gay National Post reader was smart enough to pick up another comment that the Pope said in the same breath, namely, that “when someone sins and confesses, God not only forgives but forgets.” The pro-gay reader expressed dissatisfaction that in spite of the soft tone, the Pope saw homosexuality as a “sin”. But that’s exactly what the Pope is saying, just as the Church has always been saying: homosexuality is a sin, a grave sin that is intrinsically disordered. The Pope is also saying, just as the Church has always been saying, that if the sinner – the homosexual person in this case – is prepared to repent and follow God’s will (stop the homosexual behaviors in other words), how can we say or judge that God will not forgive him?