Catholic Church

Ireland Answers Pope Francis’ Question: Who Am I To Judge?

by Benjamin Brenkert

As Cardinals stay mum, youth move on 

Ireland’s historic vote approving gay marriage is a major blow to the Roman Catholic Church.

With American Cardinals like Timothy Dolan and Sean O’Malley, and Archbishop Charles Chaput staying mum on the issue, failing to give interviews; the Church’s youth move on. Catholic youth want a different Church – they want a Church that publicly recognizes their friends, family members and colleagues.

These youth ask, Can one pope’s smile outlive doctrine, dogma or the tradition?

For a Church that still teaches that homosexuality is a crime against chastity, like fornication, masturbation, rape or incest, the time has come for the Church to take a hard think about her war on culture, not nature.

What many desire is what H. Reinhold Niebuhr wrote about in his book Christ and Culture. Niebuhr posits a Christ who transforms culture, who gives life to the world by confronting aggressive atheism and secularism.

In Ireland and around the world the Church can no longer deny that homosexuality exists in nature.

Moreover, the Church cannot deny that many, many of her priests and religious are gay men, who sought the priesthood because the Church told them they were “intrinsically disordered” or that forced celibacy was the only option for “true” life in Christ. What palaver!

As a former openly gay Jesuit, I was denied priesthood in a Church whose message about same-sex desire and same-sex intimacy remains an incoherent truth.

I know first hand from my Jesuit brothers on the ground in Latin America, Africa and Asia that the Church and Roman Catholic culture remains hostile to LGBTQ people.

How does it remain logical for LGBTQ people to deny human, natural desire for touch?

How can the Church continue to champion a failing ethics whose message is principally, “hate the sin, love the sinner”?

Today gay Catholics are plagued by witch-hunts, where married LGBTQ people are fired from jobs in high schools and/or parishes and are denied tenure at higher institutions of learning.

Universities like Notre Dame and Seton Hall shamefully recruit gay athletes to fill stadium seats, to sell tickets, but they cannot guarantee the safety or wellbeing of these “fringe characters” on campuses whose student populations are often hostile.

In the wake of the vote in Ireland, the Catholic Church meets the bevy of articles and news reports lauding the popular vote with silence.

Instead of taking the opportunity to come out of the closet gay priests, lesbian religious are dragging their feet.

Catholic youth are not waiting for the Church to catch up with them; in fact, many argue that a Church that will not sacramentally marry same-sex couples but who ordains gay priests is devoid of a Christ who transforms culture.

While the Church hierarchy argues that the primary function of sacramental marriage is to make babies, Pope Francis remains unwilling to answer his most famous rhetorical question, “Who am I to judge?”

A Church that will not marry people because of their love for a member of the same sex is losing big.

In June the Church will ordain closeted gay men to the priesthood. This is a time of gay ascendancy. How will the Francis Effect meet out justice, love and mercy?

Pope Francis and the Church’s leadership tell us in their own words: the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the Irish vote is a “defeat for humanity.”  While Pope Francis offers these comments, “The alliance of love between a man and a woman, an alliance for life, cannot be improvised, and is not made in a day.”

While Pope Francis is warming up the world to climate change and helping reopen Cuba to international travel, and Christianity, he is no longer disguising his views about same-sex love and same-sex desire.

The truth is, the Church remains uncomfortable about homosexuality.

As the world embraces science and reason, the Church’s morality loses standing in an ethics that is becoming for many inconvenient and for some incoherent.

Such is a Church that emphasizes diplomacy over and above the needs of the spiritually poor, those LGBTQ Christians who want more than a place at the table, but a seat next to Christ, and the Pope who represents him on Earth.

Photo via flickr user William Murphy

Comments (1)


While I agree that the
While I agree that the Catholic Church has some serious development to do in its sexual moral teachings, I would say it is a little bitter and simplistic to say that the Church “emphasizes diplomacy over and above the needs of the spiritually poor.” Many in the Church genuinely believe traditional teaching on sexuality and marriage and at the same time want to reach out to those on the fringes. They just understand certain doctrine as being established and unalterable. These issues are very complex and are tangled in the understanding of the Church as an infallible institution. It would be hard for a Church that considers its teachings to be guided by the Holy Spirit to suddenly change its fundamental understanding of marriage and sexuality.

But yes, much development is needed. I pray for the bishops.

Comments are closed.