Im sure you heard the recent news about Pope Francis’s alleged approval for blessing gay unions. Many people have spoken to us priests, asking for clarity about what the pope is saying. Those who are making the necessary sacrifices to live chastely, especially those with same sex attraction, are having a difficult time with not feeling betrayed by Pope Francis.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the various “news” sources are not unbiased organizations seeking the greater good of humanity. They are businesses that seek to make a profit for their stockholders and company executives. Do you remember when 24 hour news first began appearing decades ago? The idea seemed crazy because we wondered how the networks would get people to watch it all day and night. They obviously knew – focus on drama, intrigue, scandal, etc. Shouldn’t honest reporting involve providing corrections with as much fanfare as the initial story that was marketed? Yes, news is marketed.
As a result, the second thing to remember is to be disciplined and patient when we hear “news” about whatever. We need to take the time and put forth the effort to determine what the truth is. Too often we take what we hear, and without scrutinizing it, use it for an occasion to gossip. Pope Francis said gossip is the work of the devil. Mastery over this sin is found in self-discipline.
Thirdly, it’s important to understand that Pope Francis is pushing theological boundaries as far as legitimately possible in order to reach out to the lost sheep who feel abandoned by the Church. He feels especially called to help these people know God’s care for them and the Church’s care for them. However, he also knows the Church cannot change God’s teachings and so he is careful in his writings not to do so. Because he lacks the clarity of previous popes, most especially Pope Benedict XVI, his writings can be misleading if not read carefully.
Although the news headlines are declaring Pope Francis is giving approval to bless those in same sex unions, the actual title of the document is “On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings.” The declaration is very short and was written in response to questions various cardinals had about Pope Francis’s prior statements on blessing those in “irregular unions”. This pertains not just to same sex couples, but also to those who are divorced and remarried without it first having been determined they are free to marry.
Pope Francis, like the popes before him, understands well that the bond God establishes between a man and woman on their marriage day is indissolvable while they are still here on earth. If the unbreakable bond exists, then Jesus says they are committing adultery if they enter into a relationship with a new person. This “irregular union” is much more common than that of same sex couples. And next week I’ll look at what exactly the Vatican declaration says can and cannot be done with blessing the people in these irregular unions.