When Lifesite News is bothered, I’m generally happy – and they are concerned in a recent report about what they see as “confusing” signals from Pope Francis on gay relationships. There’s no need for confusion. On this and so many other issues, Francis’ signals are very clear indeed: he wants a Church much closer in spirit and in praxis to the Gospels and the example of Jesus Christ. This implies on the one hand, a real concern for the poor and marginalized of all kinds, and serious concern about the damage caused by the popular fixation with riches, greed and consumption. On the other hand, matters of sexual ethics and same – sex relationships feature no more strongly in his message, than they did in the teaching of Jesus Christ.
This is very, very different to the preoccupations of Lifesite News and similar allegedly “Catholic” groups, with their conviction that a puritanical sexual morality is central to Catholicism, so they are right to be concerned. From their distorted perspective, they should be.
From our perspectives as LGBT Catholics, we need to understand that while these issues are not central to Francis’ concerns, the signals he is sending out are distinctly encouraging, in so many ways. In addition to the words which have attracted so much positive publicity, there have also been a series of notable episcopal an curial appointments which will help to tilt the balance more in our favour. Lifesite very helpfully lists these/
Bishop Heiner Koch: Bishop Koch was appointed June 8, 2015 by Pope Francis as the new Archbishop of Berlin, and selected as one of the three delegates of the German Bishops’ Conference to participate in the upcoming October 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family. Koch has said, “Any bond that strengthens and holds people is in my eyes good; that applies also to same-sex relationships.” In another public interview he said: “To present homosexuality as sin is wounding. … I know homosexual pairs that live values such as reliability and responsibility in an exemplary way.”
Cardinal Godfried Danneels: The retired former archbishop of Brussels was a special appointment by Pope Francis to the 2014 Synod of Bishops. In addition to wearing rainbow liturgical vestments and being caught on tape concealing sexual abuse, Danneels said in 2013 of the passage of gay “marriage”: “I think it’s a positive development that states are free to open up civil marriage for gays if they want.”
Cardinal Walter Kasper: A few days into his pontificate Pope Francis praised one of Cardinal Kasper’s books, and then selected the cardinal to deliver the controversial keynote address to the consistory of cardinals advocating his proposal to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive communion in some circumstances. This proposal led to the high-profile debate at the first Synod of Bishops on the Family. Cardinal Kasper has again been selected as a personal appointee of the pope to the second Synod and regularly meets with Pope Francis. Kasper defended the vote of the Irish in favor of homosexual “marriages”, saying: “A democratic state has the duty to respect the will of the people; and it seems clear that, if the majority of the people wants such homosexual unions, the state has a duty to recognize such rights.”
Archbishop Bruno Forte: The archbishop of Chieti-Vasto was appointed Special Secretary to the 2014 Synod by Pope Francis. He is the Italian theologian who wascredited with drafting the controversial homosexuality section of the infamous midterm report of the Synod which spoke of “accepting and valuing [homosexuals’] sexual orientation.” When questioned about the language, Forte said homosexual unions have “rights that should be protected,” calling it an “issue of civilization and respect of those people.”
Bishop Johan Bonny: The bishop of Antwerp in Belgium has just been named as one of the delegates to the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family despite open dissent on homosexual unions. While being named as a delegate to the synod may not in itself constitute a major promotion, what is unique about Bonny is the extremity and clarity of his dissent. “Inside the Church, we must look for a formal recognition of the relational dimension that is also present in many homosexual, lesbian and bisexual couples,” he said in a December 2014 interview. “In the same way that in society there exists a diversity of legal frameworks for partners, there must be a diversity of forms of recognition in the Church.”
Father Timothy Radcliffe: In May,Pope Francis appointed the former Master of the Dominican Order as a consultor for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace despite his well-known support for homosexuality. Writing on homosexuality in 2013, he said: “We must ask what it means, and how far it is Eucharistic. 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.” In a 2006 lecture he advocated “accompanying” homosexuals, which he defined as “watching ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ reading gay novels, living with our gay friends and listening with them as they listen to the Lord.”