What the Pope Really Said

vatican flagCommentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

Headlines are blaring this morning about a comment the Pope made Sunday at a press conference held during his return flight from an apostolic voyage to Armenia which he said that Christians must apologize to gay people. But, as usual, many news agencies are choosing to leave out the rest of his statement in order to bolster their own agendas.

As Vatican Radio reports, “The secular press, meanwhile, latched onto remarks Pope Francis made concerning the Church’s relationship to homosexuals. Insisting once again that homosexuals must not be discriminated against, the Pope said that the Church should apologize to homosexuals and ask forgiveness for offending them – but he added, the Church should also ask forgiveness of any groups of persons who had been hurt by Christians who do not live up to the Gospel.”

These “groups of persons” include exploited women and children and the poor.

The pope was responding to a question posed by Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service who asked about a comment made by Germany’s Cardinal Marx at a recent conference in Dublin in which he said the Church should apologize to the gay community, especially in the wake of the Orlando shootings for which many people were blaming the Christian position on homosexuality.

“What do you think?” Wooden asked the Holy Father.

The Pope responded: “I will repeat what I said on my first trip. I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally. One can condemn, but not for theological reasons, but for reasons of political behavior…Certain manifestations are a bit too offensive for others, no? … But these are things that have nothing to do with the problem. The problem is a person that has a condition, that has good will and who seeks God, who are we to judge? And we must accompany them well…this is what the catechism says, a clear catechism.

“Then there are traditions in some countries, in some cultures that have a different mentality on this problem. I think that the Church must not only ask forgiveness – like that ‘Marxist Cardinal’ said (laughs) – must not only ask forgiveness to the gay person who is offended. But she must ask forgiveness to the poor too, to women who are exploited, to children who are exploited for labor. She must ask forgiveness for having blessed so many weapons. The Church must ask forgiveness for not behaving many times – when I say the Church, I mean Christians! The Church is holy, we are sinners! – Christians must ask forgiveness for having not accompanied so many choices, so many families…”

“I remember from my childhood the culture in Buenos Aires, the closed Catholic culture. I go over there, eh! A divorced family couldn’t enter the house, and I’m speaking of 80 years ago. The culture has changed, thanks be to God. Christians must ask forgiveness for many things, not just these.”

In other words, the pope said nothing that is not already spelled out in the Catechism.

However, as an example of how the media routinely distorts Francis’ remarks, consider the way CNN handled this story.

First, it ran under the sensational headline: “Pope Says Christians Should Apologize to Gay People.”

The lede paragraph furthers the distortion with just a hint of the larger context it is choosing to ignore: “Pope Francis said Sunday that Christians owe apologies to gays and others who have been offended or exploited by the church, remarks that some Catholics hailed as a breakthrough in the church’s tone toward homosexuality.”

It’s not until the fifth paragraph that the outlet mentions the full context of the statement.

“I believe that the church not only should apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended,” he added, “but has to apologize to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labor; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons.”

The “some Catholics” who are hailing the comment as a “breakthrough” are clerics such as Rev. James Martin, editor at large for America magazine which is not exactly known for its faithfulness to the Magisterium.

“While St. John Paul II apologized to several groups in 2000 — the Jewish people, indigenous peoples, immigrants and women, among them — no pope has ever come close to apologizing to the LGBT community. And the Pope is correct of course. First, because forgiveness is an essential part of the Christian life. And second, because no group feels more marginalized in the church today than LGBT people.”

Tell that to the divorced and remarried or the cohabitating couple.

The pope summarized the bottom line very succinctly when he reminded that there will always be good and bad Christians in the world. There are some who treat the marginalized cruelly, but there are “many “Teresa of Calcuttas” who devote their lives to helping them.

“All of us are saints, because all of us have the Holy Spirit. But we are all sinners, [and] I [am] the first,” he said.

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