When Pope Francis talked about his endorsement of civil unions for same-sex partners, the news was broadcasted around the world over every possible media. Everyone had their own “spin” on what the Pope had said. Even comedians got into the act. Jimmy Kimmel said in his opening remarks on his late night show, “The Pope now is talking like Jesus.”
Maybe that is the key to understanding what the Pope was trying to do. Jesus dealt with sinners and those that society had rejected. In Matthew’s gospel, “When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said, ‘Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’" (Matt. (9:11,13)
Again, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” (Matt. 21:31)
Jesus never wanted to set up divisions between “them and us.” God loves everyone. No one is excluded from the Divine Love. The Almighty invites everyone to be a part of God’s family. In God’s kingdom, all are welcomed!
This is what Pope Francis was trying to do when he made his famous statement, “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it (their orientation.) What we have to have is a civil union law – that way they are legally covered. I supported that.”
The pope has said that this does not mean that he believes that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. On many occasions, Francis has warned against threats to the institution of marriage and described marriage as “between a man and a woman.”
Accepting gay family members is realizing that homosexuality is not a choice; people are born with that orientation.
Homosexuality is found in nature and in all cultures throughout the centuries. Conversion therapy, the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, has been proven to be ineffective and potentially harmful.
The bigotry and prejudice that some people have toward gays and lesbians are unhealthy and unchristian. When persons have to deny who they are, self-hatred occurs. Gays and lesbians often have to lead double lives. People who are troubled about their same-sex orientation have internalized society’s prejudice. They have to hide “in the closet” and assume a “mask” behind which to hide.
The American Psychiatric Association says that gay men and lesbians who have accepted their sexual orientation positively are better adjusted than those who have not accepted.
In the past, homosexuality was considered a crime, a sickness, and a sin. Our society has evolved in its understanding of homosexuality and considers it neither a crime nor a sickness. In 1973, the empirical data guided the Board of Directors of the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Has the pope changed church teaching? He has not changed anything in regards to official church doctrine. Pope Francis is teaching by example about how to be more welcoming and more respectful of L.G.B.T people. The pope has not changed church teaching, but he has certainly changed the pastoral tone with which the church should approach L.G.B.T. people.
The Catholic Catechism teaches that homosexual acts are “contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” The Catechism goes on to acknowledge that “homosexuals do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them, it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”