Pope Francis has appointed Fr Timothy Radcliffe as a “consultor” to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Michael O’Loughlin at Crux describes Fr Radcliffe as “An internationally known preacher and writer known for pushing the boundaries of Catholic orthodoxy”, English lgbt Catholics will know him more simply as an engaging speaker, who for a long time has been a prominent supporter of both the Soho Masses, where he was a regular celebrant, and Quest, for whom he has been a keynote speaker at their annual conference. He has also written perceptively and sympathetically on issues around sexual orientation, notably in a useful book about HIV / AIDS
One measure of his importance to progressive causes in the Church was the furious reaction from conservative quarters, when he was a scheduled speaker at the International Conference of Divine Mercy, Ireland’s largest Catholic gathering. The Crux report notes
The row was caused by comments Radcliffe made in 2013 about homosexuality, as reported by The Tablet.
“Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual, and non-violent. So in many ways, I would think that it can be expressive of Christ’s self-gift,” he said. He expressed surprise that his views caused such a stir, stating that they were “deeply in resonance with the teaching of Pope Francis.”
This appointment is important for lgbt Catholcs, but also for women in the Church, and for those who have divorced. The Crux report notes:
In a 2013 essay in America magazine, Radcliffe wrote that he held “two profound hopes. That a way will be found to welcome divorced and remarried people back to communion. And, most important, that women will be given real authority and voice in the Church. The pope expresses his desire that this may happen, but what concrete form can it take?”
Too often, the issue of lgbt Catholics is approached purely from the perspective of sexual ethics, but it is equally important to see things from the perspective of justice. In his new position, Fr Radcliffe will surely remind his colleagues that the Catholic imperative of “justice” must inevitably include the frequently overlooked question of justice inside the church, just as much as in the wider, secular world.