Before anything else, I would like to put in a good word for a new blog that deals with some of the subjects I’ve been talking about here: Where Peter Is. It has some excellent writers, including Peter Vere and Pedro Gabriel, who are devoted to defending Pope Francis and the Holy See in these troubled times. In fact, Vere has written an excellent post about the subject I’m about to take up.
Now that I’ve shown in Part I that, contrary to what some Catholics think, Pope Francis does believe and teach what the Church actually does teach about homosexuality, let’s go to this latest story.
Juan Carlos Cruz, a former seminarian, is one of three survivors of abuse by Fr. Fernando Karadima. They had accused the bishop Juan Barros, who Francis had appointed bishop of Osorno, Chile in 2015, of witnessing their abuse and did nothing. They and other survivors had written Pope Francis about Barros, but had received no answer. Francis defended Barros against all criticism, until he changed course at the beginning of this year, and realized that the evidence showed Barros was guilty. As a result of a meeting at the Vatican, the whole Chilean episcopate has turned in their resignations to the Pope.
The three victims have also met with Pope Francis at the Vatican, staying with him at the Santa Marta residence from April 26 to May 1. It was after this meeting that Cruz gave his interview to El Pais, in which he claimed that Francis had said that God made him gay and loves him that way.
In the extreme reactions, many Catholics are not considering the whole story. The background and context are all important here. The interview with Juan Carlos is essential reading, though of course, no more than a sentence or two has been translated into English in the secular press. I’ve translated the whole interview into English. It’s too long for me to reproduce in its entirety, so I will just deal with the highlights. But I’ve posted it all on a separate page here.
Juan Carlos’ talk with the Pope was not just a brief greeting. The young man says that during his stay, he met with the Pope on several occasions, and talked with him “for hours, as if I had known him all my life.” He recounts how he wept while he described his abuse and how the Pope comforted him.
The interviewer hints that Juan Carlos had been made to suffer by some in the Chilean Church because of his homosexuality more than for any other reason. Another report confirms this, saying that some Latin American bishops used the fact that Juan Carlos is an admitted homosexual to brand him a liar. Yet another story, in America, the Jesuit magazine, says:
[Juan Carlos] said he told the pope that when he came forward with allegations of sexual abuse, leaders in the Chilean church, including Cardinal Javier Errazuriz, a member of the pope’s advisory council, said that since Cruz is gay, he was not a legitimate victim of abuse because he may have “liked” it. (Source)
In his interview, Juan Carlos said that he told Pope Francis about this further abuse by the hierarchy. He described “how [the bishops] tried to make us feel guilty. He had been told that I was a deranged person. They had told him that I did not believe, that I was an enemy of the Church. I told him that this made me very angry because I continue to believe, and still love the Church. . . . ‘My faith is tremendously important to me, Your Holiness,’ I said to him. I find it frightening that they even treat me like this to destroy me.”
Now let’s look at the crucial sentences where the Pope speaks to Juan Carlos about his homosexuality:
“He had practically been told that I was a wicked person. There I explained to him that I am not the reincarnation of St. Aloysius Gonzaga but I am not a bad person, I try not to hurt anyone. He told me “Juan Carlos, that you are gay does not matter. God made you like this and he loves you like this and it doesn’t matter to me. The Pope loves you like this, you have to be happy with who you are. ”
It seems to me that the reason the Pope spoke as he did is clear. He needs to reassure this young man attacked viciously by many in the Church simply because of his homosexual identity that God and the Pope love him unconditionally just as he is. Once again, many have leaped to the conclusion that “God wants you this way” means “God made you gay as just another perfectly legitimate variant of sexuality, which can be fulfilled with whatever acts you like with whoever you like.” Of course, the Pope has not been recorded as saying any of this.
Nothing the Pope did say to Juan Carlos on this subject goes against any defined Church teaching, because the Church does not have any defined teaching on how the homosexual inclination arises. The Catechism leans towards accepting a psychological origin, though this is not a magisterial statement (CCC no. 2357). Yet the Catechism also says that the inclination itself is “objectively disordered,” that is, something is not right in this person’s inner makeup (essentially, his sexual urges are directed to the wrong kind of object).
But this still leaves unanswered questions. If people are “born gay” because of genetics (I for one don’t think they are), or if it arises through psychological trauma or other factors, we do, like it or not, have to deal with the question: why does God permit them to be that way? Does he cause it directly (His pure, actual will) or just allow it to happen (His permissive will)? And why does he do it?
The pro-homosexual answer just given tries to answer the question, but has to go against the whole Christian tradition to do so. We cannot agree that trying to fulfill homosexual desires that God gives people or allows them to have is a good thing; but then why do they have them? This is the same question, of course, that we have to ask about all kinds of suffering.
Let’s look at what Jesus said about this question. He and his apostles saw a man blind from birth. The disciples asked: “Who sinned that this man should be blind, he or his parents?” They must have reasoned that since blindness is clearly not a good thing, God could only have allowed it as punishment. Jesus answers: “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made manifest through him.” (Jn 9:1-2). He most likely meant, “He was born blind this way so that someday I would heal him and show God’s glory though doing so.”
But this is not the only possibility. In fact, God leaves many people unhealed in this life, but the works of God are revealed through them. Our Lady’s intercession has cured many through the miraculous spring at Lourdes – but it did not cure St. Bernadette’s asthma. The works of God were revealed through Bernadette not through a healing by her faithfulness and her suffering. Many homosexual persons do not have this wound in their nature healed, but God can still work through them by faithful chaste living, suffering, or by witnessing to God’s truths about the human person in other ways, including proclaiming the truth about abuse. All these reasons and others we don’t know about, are the reasons God has in his providential plan, and our lives are in accordance with His will when we accept our situation and embrace what that means in our lives. We can probably assume that this is also part of what Francis was trying to explain to Juan Carlos.
“Well,” some Catholic writers have said, “If this is what the Pope meant, he should have clarified it. But he is silent, so he must think the pro-homosexual interpretation going around is accurate. If he does not clarify it, he is deliberately leading the Church into confusion.” (In fact, this is Phil Lawler’s take, which Pete Vere has addressed here). But if he did try to explain “No, this is not what I said,” how would that come out any other way than calling Juan Carlos a liar once again, victimizing him again after so much work to rebuild trust with the victims? It would have been cruel. Pope Francis did not have any real recourse but to trust in the intelligence of Catholics — and once again to be disappointed.
One last point: I trust that many Catholics know that St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whom Juan Carlos mentioned, was a young Jesuit novice who died nursing plague victims in Rome in 1591; he is particularly celebrated for his purity, and is considered the patron saint of students and seminarians. In speaking of him, Juan Carlos seems to be acknowledging that some of his behavior is not in accordance with the Christian ideal. In fact, he has also said that while he thinks Church teaching on homosexuality should change, he recognizes that Pope Francis has not changed it by his words. One more good reassure we can assure ourselves that the Pope is still Catholic.