On November 19, 2021, America magazine, a Jesuit publication, featured a video titled, “The Vatican changing tone toward LGBT Catholics.” In it, Fr. James Martin, S.J., and America associate editor Colleen Dulle discuss how Pope Francis is changing the Vatican’s tone on LGBT people.1
Fr. James Martin posted the video on his Facebook page, saying, “Pope Francis has helped to change the conversation about the church’s relationship with the LGBTQ community.”2
The reality, however, is that Pope Francis is changing not just the tone and “the conversation” regarding the homosexual movement but also the Catholic doctrine on the sin of sodomy. Over the years, through words, gestures and attitudes, he expresses a moral doctrine different from what the Catholic Church has taught for 2,000 years.
“Outspoken Support for Same-Sex Couples”
As the video begins, Colleen Dulle says that “Pope Francis has taken a very different tone towards LGBT Catholics than previous popes have”3 since his famous “Who am I to judge?” statement. He has shown “close friendship with gay couples” and “outspoken support for same-sex couples.” Dulle says that Pope Francis changed the tone from condemnation to respect and sensitiveness.
For his part, Father Martin says that when they asked the pope if the words “Who am I to judge?” referred only to homosexual priests, he answered, no, they included “all homosexuals.” Referring to Pope Francis, Fr. Martin says he represents “a dramatic shift in tone from previous popes,” who usually employed a “condemnatory and accusatory language.” “I think that is the beginning of opening the door of this pontificate” to “LGBT people.”
Sin Is Incompatible With True Human Dignity
Colleen Dulle adds that three years after that famous statement, Pope Francis wrote the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in which he made “very explicit that he would prioritize caring for gay people pastorally.” She quotes an excerpt on how one must be treated with respect because of “his or her dignity,” “regardless of sexual orientation.”4
Eternal and Natural Law: The Foundation of Morals and Law
From the context of the video, it is clear that both Dulle and Fr. Martin are not referring to people who, while having an objectively disordered same-sex attraction, remain chaste with the help of grace. Rather, they refer to the individuals who do not stay chaste but give in to sin and embrace the ideology of the homosexual movement.5
Father Martin emphasizes that, contrary to other papal documents that “condemn LGBT people and talk about them almost exclusively in the language of sin, Amoris Laetitia said [that] before all else, we have to recognize their human dignity and treat them with respect.”
Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, however, that “by sinning, man departs from the order of reason, and consequently falls away from the dignity of his manhood.”6 This is because sin is not compatible with true human dignity, which proceeds from the rational nature of man. By committing a grave sin, man fails to act according to the right reason and the law of God and thus loses his dignity.
Taking a Principled not a Personal Stand
As practicing Catholics, we are filled with compassion and pray for those who struggle against violent temptation to sin, be it toward homosexual sin or otherwise.
We are conscious of the enormous difference between these individuals who struggle with their weaknesses and strive to overcome them and others who transform their sin into a reason for pride, and try to impose their lifestyle on society as a whole, in flagrant opposition to traditional Christian morality and natural law. However, we pray for them too.
According to the expression attributed to Saint Augustine, we “hate the sin but love the sinner.” And to love the sinner, as the same Doctor of the Church explains, is to wish for him the best we can possibly desire for ourselves, namely, “that he may love God with a perfect affection.” (St. Augustine, Of the Morals of the Catholic Church, No. 49, www.newadvent.org/fathers/1401.htm)
Colleen Dulle suggests that Pope Francis is consistent, practicing what he preaches, and that his attitudes toward homosexuality reflect this. She asks Fr. Martin for his opinion.
Father Martin agrees, saying that Pope Francis’s friendship with homosexuals (“LGBT people”) dates back to when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires. As pope, in 2015, he received Yayo Grassi, a homosexual, with his male partner, at the Papal Nunciature in Washington, D.C.7
Fr. Martin could have mentioned a no less spectacular episode that took place in December, 2014. Pope Francis telephoned a Spanish woman who had undergone a sex-change surgery and pretended to be a man. In the phone call Pope Francis reportedly said, “Of course you are child of the Church!” “God wants all his children, however they are, and you are a child of God and that is why the Church loves you and accepts you as you are.”8 Pope Francis told her that he had read the letter she had written him and invited her and her “fiancée” to the Vatican. On January 24, 2015, Pope Francis welcomed both and posed for a picture with them.9
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In a later interview, Pope Francis recalled this Vatican meeting and said, “She is a young woman who suffered much because she felt like a young man.” “She felt like a young man, but she was physically a young woman.” Pope Francis added that “He wrote me a letter saying that, for him, it would be a consolation to come [see me] with his wife.” The pope clarified the use of pronouns, saying, “He that was her but is he.”10
Father Martin also refers to Pope Francis’s friendship with Juan Carlos Cruz, an avowed homosexual, whom he appointed to a high-ranking post at the Vatican commission in charge of monitoring clergy sexual abuse.
In this regard, Father Martin comments, “it would be unthinkable 10 or 15 years ago that an open gay would be appointed to this very high-level commission.”
Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean who was abused by a priest, is today a homosexual activist. In 2018, after an interview with Pope Francis, he stated the latter told him: “God made you this way, and he loves you.”11
Support of Same-sex Unions
About the pope’s support of laws allowing same-sex civil unions, Fr. Martin says that Pope Francis “does not accept the possibility of a sacramental marriage for a same-sex couple within the church, but he supports this and has said this ever since he’s been in Buenos Aires.”
Marriage—the stable union between a man and a woman, open to procreation—was not established by the sacrament but stems from the natural law. Our Lord elevated it to a sacrament, but it is not only the sacrament but nature itself that prevents two persons of the same sex from marrying.
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Accordingly, a law opposed to the natural order established by God runs counter to the divine will and cannot be approved. As Pope Pius XII emphasized, “that which does not correspond to truth or the norm of morality objectively has no right to exist, to be spread or to be activated.”12
Another example of how Pope Francis is changing more than just the tone on homosexuality was his 2019 encounter with Father Martin himself, whom he congratulated on his outreach with “LGBT people.” “The meeting was extremely positive,” says Fr. Martin; “we talked about LGBT things.” In the end, the pope told him, “You can continue your ministry in peace.”
Father Martin closes his presentation on the video by saying that what he does with homosexuals is meant to imitate what Jesus did and that the problem is that people do not follow Jesus.
There is no question that the central problem today is that Catholics do not imitate Our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully. However, this starts with those who sow confusion about Catholic doctrine’s clear opposition to sin—in this case, the sin of sodomy.
The Savior always showed true mercy, which consists of helping the sinner abandon sin to rejoin the path of salvation.
In Saint John’s Gospel, we see how Jesus forgives the adulterous woman and then tells her, “Go, and now sin no more” (John 8:11).
Changing the Doctrine
Man expresses his thought not just through written or spoken words but also by actions, gestures, and behavior that disclose more or less clearly what is in the person’s mind. There is a unity in man whereby he normally acts according to his thoughts or wishes, at least in his voluntary acts.
Although actions and gestures do not have the clarity of words, depending on the circumstances, they can take on a symbolic character that goes far beyond mere words. That is why theologians explain that acts, gestures, attitudes and omissions can characterize a heretic.13
Pope Francis fails to teach the Catholic doctrine on the sin of sodomy clearly. This perennial teaching is contained in the Scriptures, Tradition, and the Church’s magisterium. Instead, by his public acts of support for homosexuals, even when accompanied by their “partners,” he implies there is nothing sinful in this unnatural sexual behavior.
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Therefore, in his “change of tone” about “LGBT people,” Pope Francis is changing Catholic doctrine on sodomy, at least implicitly.
However, neither the Ten Commandments nor the Church’s moral doctrine can ever change. The words of Saint Paul will continue to resonate until the end of the world: “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor., 6:9-10).
Photo Credit: © Massimo Valicchia/Alamy Stock Photo
- “How Pope Francis is changing the Vatican’s tone on LGBT people,” //www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrslGK0kls4.
- Fr. James Martin’s Facebook page, //m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=446584436827655&id=100044283077147&m_entstream_source=timeline, accessed Nov. 19, 2021, 3:49 PM.
- Quotes are taken from the video’s captions.
- See Pope Francis, apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, no. 250, //www.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf.
- In the America interview video, see 1:30–1:47; 5:56; 6:40–7:20; 7:39–8:09; 9:09–9:12.
- Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II–II, q. 64, a.2, ad 3.
- Dan Zak, “Meet Yayo Grassi, the gay man who is friends with Pope Francis,” The Washington Post, Oct. 2, 2015, //www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/10/02/meet-yayo-grassi-the-gay-man-who-is-friends-with-pope-francis/.
- David Vigario, “El Papa, a un transexual español: ‘¡Claro que eres hijo de la Iglesia!’” El Mundo, Jan. 28, 2015, //www.elmundo.es/espana/2015/01/28/54c7e217268e3e6e518b4572.html, accessed Nov. 29, 2021.
- Ana María Ortiz, “La imagen del encuentro del primer transexual recibido por un Papa” El Mundo, Oct. 6, 2015, //www.elmundo.es/sociedad/2015/10/06/56140419ca4741bf7d8b45f4.html.
- Joshua J. McElwee, “Francis: Sexual morality determined case-by-case, even for transgender,” National Catholic Reporter, Oct. 2, 2016, //www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/francis-sexual-morality-determined-case-case-even-transgender, accessed Nov. 24, 2021. My emphasis.
- Michael J. O’Loughlin, “Juan Carlos Cruz: Pope Francis’ words about gay Catholics are a model of welcome,” America, May 22, 2018, //www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/05/22/juan-carlos-cruz-pope-francis-words-about-gay-catholics-are-model-welcome: “Pope Francis tells gay Chilean sex abuse victim ‘God loves you’” BBC, May 22, 2018, //www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-44215996.
- Pope Pius XII, “Address to the National Convention of Italian Catholic Jurists ‘Ci riesce,’” (Dec. 6, 1953), EWTN.com, accessed Nov. 24, 2021, //www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/ci-riesce-8948.
- See Arnaldo Vidigal Xavier da Silveira, Can Documents of the Magisterium of the Church Contain Errors? Can the Catholic Faithful Resist Them? trans. John R. Spann and José Aloisio A. Schelini (Spring Grove, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property-TFP, 2015), 47ff, accessed Nov. 24, 2021, //tfp.org/can-documents-of-the-magisterium-of-the-church-contain-errors-can-the-catholic-faithful-resist-them/.