Mom and Teen Disagree About Pope’s Message


pope-francis-waveQ. Pope Francis’ recent comments about gays — meant to be loving and conciliatory — have unfortunately created tension in my home. My teenager believes his comment, “Who am I to judge?” means that we should accept homosexuality as a normal occurrence and, therefore, something we shouldn’t reject. I’m certain that’s not what the pope meant — or if he did, I’m worried that the church is backing down on this important doctrine. Did the pope articulate a new teaching on homosexuality?

A. I love this pope. He is completely unafraid to answer the hard questions and speak the truth, and he even thanked the reporter who asked this question for giving him the chance to address this subject. How cool is that?

Francis spoke very clearly but he is also a sophisticated and intellectual man, so we’re charged with making sure that we really understand what he said, and what he meant.

First, the question wasn’t just a random inquiry about the pope’s understanding of homosexuality. The question was, “How should one deal with this question and how does your holiness wish to deal with the whole question of the gay lobby?”

Essentially, it was a political question about a faction of leaders in the Vatican who are or were known to lobby on behalf of the interests of gay priests.

So, to be clear, Francis wasn’t asked the question, “How do you feel about gays?” Nonetheless, he answered that very question so he could articulate the church’s unchanged and unchanging teaching about gays and same-sex attraction.

“If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?” Francis said. That statement, if taken out of context, might lead your teenager to believe that the pope is reflecting a “new” position about homosexuality. But there’s actually nothing “new” about loving others, especially those who experience the pain of sin.

Francis went on to say this: “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this point beautifully but says, wait a moment, how does it say, it says, these persons must never be marginalized and ‘they must be integrated into society.’”

The Holy Father makes it clear that rejecting or reviling people for the fact of their same-sex attraction is not the way the church responds to gays, even though the church recognizes homosexual behavior as sinful.

Meanwhile, back at the news conference, the question to the pope from the reporter had to do with power struggles within the Vatican, widely referred to as a “gay lobby” within the leadership.

Here’s what he said about that issue: “The problem is not that one has this tendency; no, we must be brothers, this is the first matter. There is another problem, another one: The problem is to form a lobby of those who have this tendency, a lobby of the greedy people, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. This is the most serious problem for me. And thank you so much for doing this question. Thank you very much.”

As for your teenager, I’m not at all surprised by the assumption that Francis is articulating some new teaching about gays. First, the media generally hone in on this topic with freakish interest when it comes to dogma of the Catholic Church. Many uninformed folks with access to microphones and websites actually believe that a pope is free to change the teachings of the church, much like a president enacts new public policy.

But the teaching that Francis reiterated is the same as it ever was: we’re called to love everyone, and since we’re all sinners, that means loving sinners. Gay behavior is sinful (as is all sexual behavior that isn’t in the context of marriage), but as with all sins, a willingness to repent and live according to God’s plan is all it takes to get on the right road.

Redemption is available to everybody, since Jesus already did the heavy lifting for us.


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  • noel fitzpatrick


    Thanks for this article. As with all your articles it is clear, charitable and Caytholic.

    The Pope is Catholic and supports Catholic teaching.

    The key phrase is” If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?”

    I have written many times in CL that no one can judge the sinfulness of another. Many in CL have disagreed with me, so I am pleased here to be supported by the Pope and you. The Pope also supports the CCC, who is

    Finally, your article is positive and uplifting. Is there a general policy in CL to encourage build-up and inspire us, rather than the negative depressing posts we used to have predominately about abortion, unfaithful Catholics and political corruption?

    • cfish

      What do you mean by ‘no one can judge the sinfulness of another’.
      If a man comes up to and introduces another man as his boyfriend or lover or live-in or such. I can know with certainty he is commiting grave sins , that are unhealthy for him and very likely to drive a wedge between him and God. More over if he has full knowledge that what he does is wrong, the sin is mortal and he will go to hell for it.
      Does that mean he will go to hell? Does he have full knowledge? Will he repent of his sin later? That is what the pope means when he says “who am I do judge”.
      On the other hand, I do know that this man is hurting himself and his ‘lover’ and I have am obliged by love, if it is within my power, to discourage him from hurting himself and others and to encourage him to live a healthier lifestyle.
      I should not ‘validate’ his ‘lifestyle choice’ in any way esp. by supporting something like his supposed right to be married. To do so would be decided UNLOVING , in exactly the same way it would be wrong to hand someone who you know is an alcholic a 12 pack and tell him to have fun.

  • rodlarocque1931

    The pope is really saying that people with homosexual tendancies can be priests, just not act on it, nor advocate on behalf of the gay agenda.
    Once can see this if one understands what he means by distinguishing between the tendancy and the acts as well as being integrated into society but not advocating on behalf of a gay lobby.
    Whether the Holy Father was prudent in answering the question in this way is a completely different story.
    He should realize that by speaking abiguously he will cause strife in the lives of the faithful, in their families and in the front lines of the culture war.
    He is the first to return from WYD and begin making a “mess”.

  • goral

    This is why Jesus told his disciples that as they go into public ministry they have to be as wise as serpents. The media doesn’t just misinterprets statements; They purposefully twist them to fit their own twisted agenda.
    Speaking of twisted, the homos don’t need any more sympathy from anyone,
    they already have the upper hand within practically every institution.
    As far as I can judge, Pope Francis didn’t really do the Church a great service with that, less than clear, statement.

  • Micha_Elyi

    “If a person is gay…?” Francis said.

    Really, Pope Francis, who does not speak English, said that? Or did what he said get erroneously translated as “gay” when he really said something more accurately and honestly rendered as, perhaps, “same-sex attracted”?

    Remember, in today’s agenda-molded English vernacular, “gay” is a politics (one of promoting perversion). “Homosexual” is a lifestyle. “Same-sex attraction” is a temptation.

    • Phil Dzialo

      “Or did what he said get erroneously translated as “gay” when he really said something more accurately and honestly rendered as, perhaps, “same-sex attracted”?

      Oh, really…you assume? “It is noteworthy that Pope Francis used the modern universal English word “gay” in his reply to a reporter on his flight back to Rome from Brazil, saying about gay priests:

      “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” New York Times, 7/30/13

  • noel fitzpatrick


    Thank you for your comments.

    You wrote “What do you mean by ‘no one can judge the sinfulness of another’”. I think these words are quite clear.

    You also wrote “I can know with certainty he is commiting grave sins”. I disagree.

    You also wrote “very likely to drive a wedge between him and God”. You may be correct here.

    You continue “if he has full knowledge that what he does is wrong, the sin is mortal”. For moral sin there are several criteria to be met, the act must be grave, committed with clear knowledge and full consent. In this case the act is grave, the knowledge is clear, but is the consent full? Leave this to God’s mercy.

    I fully agree with you that one should not encourage others to live unhealthy lives.

    So I agree with some things you wrote and disagree with others. But it is important to remember that “where there is love and charity God is there.”