— BrotherKolya (@ImperatorOfPuns) May 25, 2017
When Cardinal Bergoglio was elected Pope Francis, it was widely acknowledged that this was largely on the grounds of his contribution to discussions inside the consistory, on the pressing need for reform of the curia. So, the world watched anxiously to see what form this reform would take – and in particular, which curial officials would remain in post, be booted out, or receive promotion. Months later, there seemed to be little change. This perception though, simply missed the point. Some years on, the perspective is rather different.
The first point to note, is that instead of rushing into a “reform” of the curia, Pope Francis’ first and most important action was simply to downgrade its simple importance. This was dramatically signalled symbolically, by taking up his personal residence outside the traditional buildings, away from the officials. Later, it was given more substantive form, in his formation of an advisory inner circle of cardinal advisors. This is where the important decisions are now taken, not in curial offices. A further sign of the diminished importance of the curia, is in the much reduced flow of published documents issuing from those offices, as compared with the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The rightful role of the curia has been restored to that of the church’s civil service, not its government. (That is not to deny that there is extensive unhappiness and resistance within the curia. That is to be expected – but matters far less, than it would have done under Francis’ predecessors).
For a useful summary of just how extensive Francis’ reform has been, taking one simple step at a time, see Pope Francis’ hard-hitting Christmas address to the leaders of the curia, reported in full at Radio Vatican. Every Christmas since taking office, in these seasonal addresses Francis has given some thoughts on what the curia should be – and what at times it is, but should not be. Continue reading Curial Reform: Softlee Softlee, Catchee Monkey
The crazies at Church Militant have been useful, this time by drawing attention to an interesting newspaper interview with the Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff. What has angered them, is his claim that Pope Francis is “one of us” – that is, in sympathy with liberation theology. That should not surprise anyone: to me, it is obvious. Right from the start of his papacy, Francis has sent out signals of sympathy to both the people and ideas of the liberation theology movement. However, there’s much more of importance in this interview, some of it much more radical.
I am particularly interested in Boff’s discussion of the possibility of married priests returning to active ministry. He claims that the Brazilian bishops have already made this request to the pope, and that he (Boff) has “heard” that Francis has agreed. More interesting, is that he personally feels he does not need this papal permission to return to ministry, which he is already exercising, with the tacit approval of local bishops – some of whom may even be encouraging others to do the same.
A fun observation in the interview, is his dismissal of the objections to Amoris Laetitia by Cardinal Burke and his cronies in their “dubia”. Burke, he says, is the Vatican’s equivalent of Donald Trump. The difference though, is that he is effectively sidelined in the curia (“cold-shouldered”, if I understand correctly the German “kaltgestellt” ).
The interview report of course is in German. Fortunately, the quality of Google Translate has improved markedly since a recent major change in their technology. I include here the Google translation of the complete interview, lightly edited to improve English readability. (For the complete German language interview, see Kölner Stadt-Unzeiger)
The Brazilian Leonardo Boff, born in 1938, is the son of Italian immigrants. In 1959 he joined the Franciscan Order and studied in Germany for five years.
In the 1980s, Boff became the main representative of liberation theology, and because of his criticism of the church, he was in conflict with the Vatican and Joseph Ratzinger, his superior. After having been twice subjected to a publication ban, Boff left the Order in 1992 and laid down his priesthood.
Mr. Boff, do you like Christmas songs?
What do you think? (Sings): “Si-hil-lent night, holy night …” This is sung in every family that celebrates Christmas. With us in Brazil, this is just as much a tradition as in Germany.
Do not you see this kind of Christmas kitted up and commercialized?
This is different from country to country. Of course, Christmas has become a big business. But in all this, joy is still alive, a time of being together with the family, and in many cases also a time of faith. And as I have experienced Christmas in Germany, it is a celebration of the heart, very coherent, wonderful.
How does a faith, which speaks for Christmas of a “God of peace”, fit the dissatisfaction we experience everywhere?
The major part of faith is promise. Ernst Bloc*h says: “Real genesis is not at the beginning, but at the end, and it only starts to begin when society and existence become radical.” The joy of Christmas lies in this promise: The earth and the people are not condemned, it always goes on as we experience it – with all the wars, violence, fundamentalism. We are promised in faith that in the end everything will be good; That despite all the mistakes, missteps and setbacks, we are coming to a good end. The real meaning of Christmas is not that “God has become man,” but that he has come to tell us, “You men belong to me, and when you die, you will come home.”
Christmas means: God is coming to pick us up?
Yes. Incarnation means something of us is already divine, immortal. The divine lies within us. In Jesus it has been shown most clearly. But it is in all people. In an evolutive view, Jesus does not come to the world from outside, but grows out of it. Jesus is the manifestation of the divine in evolution – but not the only one. The Divine also appears in the Buddha, in Mahatma Gandhi, and other great beliefs.
This does not sound very Catholic.
Do not say that. The entire Franciscan theology of the Middle Ages conceived of Christ as part of creation, not only as the Redeemer of Debt and Sin, who comes into the world from above. Incarnation is also salvation, yes. But first and foremost it is a glorification, a deification of creation. And something else is important at Christmas. God appears in the form of a child. Not as an old man with white hair and long white beard …
Just like you …
So, if at all, I rather resemble Karl Marx. What I am concerned with is the following: If, at the end of our lives, we have to face the divine judge once before, then we are faced with a child. But a child does not condemn anyone. A child wants to play and be together with others. This side of faith must be re-emphasized.
Latin liberation theology, among whose most prominent representatives you belong, has come to new honour by Pope Francis. A rehabilitation also for you personally after the decades of fighting with Pope John Paul II and his most faithful guardian Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI?
Francis is one of us. He has made liberation theology the common property of the Church. And he has extended it. Those who speak of the poor must also speak of the earth today because it is also plundered and desecrated. “To hear the cry of the poor,” means to hear the cry of the beasts, the forests, the whole tormented creation. The whole earth cries. So, says the Pope, quoting the title of one of my books, we must at the same time hear the cry of the poor and the earth. And both must be liberated. In recent times, I myself have been very concerned with this extension of liberation theology. And this is also the fundamentally new one in “Laudato si” …
… the “eco-encyclical” of the Pope from 2015. How much Leonardo Boff is in Jorge Mario Bergoglio?
The Encyclical belongs to the Pope. But he has consulted many experts.
Has he read your books?
Even more. He asked me for material for “Laudato si”. I have given him my advice and sent some of what I have written. He also used it. Some people have told me that they had thought on reading it, “that’s Boff!” By the way, Pope Francis said to me, “Boff, please do not send the papers directly to me.”
He said: “Otherwise, the Secretariat will see them off, and I will not get them. I would like to know that the current Vatican ambassador is an old acquaintance of the Pope from his time in Buenos Aires. They have often drunk mate together. One day before the encyclical was published, the Pope had to call me to give me his thanks for my help.
But a personal meeting with the Pope is still pending?
He has sought reconciliation with the most important representatives of liberation theology, with Gustavo Gutierrez, Jon Sobrino, and also with me. I said to him, with a view to Pope Benedict and Joseph Ratzinger, “but the other one still lives!”. He did not accept this. “No,” he said, “il Papa sono io” – “the pope is me”. So we should come quietly. You see his courage and determination.
Why did it not work out with your visit?
I had an invitation and had already landed in Rome. But on that very day, just before the beginning of family synod 2015, 13 cardinals – among them the German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Congregation of the Faith – were preparing rebellion against the Pope with a letter addressed to him, which then – oh, miracle! – appeared in the newspaper. The Pope was angry and said to me, “Boff, I have no time. I have to make peace before the Synod. See you another time.”
Even with peace that has not really gone away, right?
The Pope feels the sharpness of the wind from his own ranks, especially from the USA. This cardinal Burke, Leo Burke, who has now written a letter together with your Cologne Cardinal Meisner, is the Donald Trump of the Catholic Church. (Laughs) But unlike Trump, Burke is now cold-shouldered in the Curia. Thank God. These people actually believe they should correct the pope. As if they were above the Pope. Such a thing is unusual, if not unprecedented in the church history. You can criticize the Pope, discuss with him. I have done this often enough. But that Cardinals publicly accuse the Pope of spreading theological errors or even heresies, which I think is too much. This is an affront, which the can not be done to the pope. The Pope can not be condemned, that is the teaching the Church.
With all your enthusiasm for the Pope, what about the Church reforms that many Catholics had hoped for from Francis, but where in fact still not so much has happened?
You know, as far as I understand it, the center of his interest is no longer the church, certainly not the inner church enterprise, but the survival of mankind, the future of the earth. Both are in danger, and one must ask whether Christianity can contribute to overcoming this great crisis that threatens humanity.
Francis takes care of the environment, and now his church is on the wall?
I believe there is a hierarchy of problems for him. When the earth perishes, all other problems have also settled. But as for the inner-church questions, wait a while! It was only recently that Cardinal Walter Kasper, a close confidant of the Pope, said that there would soon be great surprises.
What do you expect?
Who knows? Perhaps women deacons. Or the possibility that married priests can be used again in pastoral care. This is an explicit request from the Brazilian bishops to the Pope, especially his friend, the Brazilian Cardinal emeritus Claudio Hummes. I heard that the Pope wanted to comply with this request – initially for an experimental phase in Brazil. This country, with its 140 million Catholics, should have at least 100,000 priests. But there are only 18000. Institutionally, this is a disaster. It is no wonder that the faithful overflow with the evangelicals and Pentecostals who fill the vacuum. If the many thousands of married priests were able to exercise their office again, this would be a first step towards the improvement of the situation – and at the same time an impulse for the Catholic Church to loosen the fetters of the obligation celibacy.
If the Pope were to decide in this sense, would you, as a former Franciscan friar, take on priestly duties again?
Personally, I do not need such a decision. It would not change for me, because I am still doing what I have always done: I baptize, I bury, and when I go to a church without a priest, I celebrate the Mass together with the people.
Is it very “German” to ask: Can you do that?
So far, no bishop I know of has ever criticized or forbidden it. The bishops even rejoice and tell me: “The people have a right to the Eucharist. So keep on, in peace! “My theological teacher, Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, who had died a few days ago, for example, was very open. He went so far as to bring married priests, whom he saw sitting in the bench during the Mass, to the front of the altar, and together with them celebrated the Eucharistic feast. He often did that and said. “You are still priests, and you will remain so!”
At New Ways Ministyr’s Bondings 2.0 blog, Bob Shine has a useful review of 2016 as it affects LGBT Catholics. After a factual listing of assorted features of the year, both hopeful and disappointing, he adds:
Finally, I offer a concluding note from my own consideration of Pope Francis. More and more, I read his treatment of LGBT issues within the wider context of his papacy and his vision. Pope Francis is clearly limited in his understandings of gender and sexuality, likely stemming from both his own lack of knowledge, and by relying on advisors at the Vatican with a more conservative agenda.
As many have observed, Pope Francis’ actions often speak far louder than his words. These movements to return to Jesus, in their firm commitment to more fully and fervently living out Christian discipleship, can only help the cause of LGBT equality in the long term. None of these positives, however, excuses or lessens the harmful impact of his LGBT negative comments in which he does real damage to people’s lives.
Most importantly for me, Francis has been far more faithful than his immediate predecessors to the teachings of Vatican II. He prioritizes a church of mercy and welcome, a church foremost committed to justice for marginalized and vulnerable people, and a church where honest conversation is practiced to strengthen the faithful’s unity amid tremendous diversity.
Source: – Bondings 2.0
I think Shine is absolutely correct to “read his treatment of LGBT issues within the wider context of his papacy and his vision”. Too much of the analysis of Francis and these matters, on both sides of the argument, has been hampered by looking through too narrow a prism. Stepping back to take a wider perspective is instructive. In particular, the approach at the synods and in Amoris Laetitia to those those divorced and remarried, carries much hope for LGBT Catholics, because the broad principles are the same.
In terms of actual doctrine, not much has changed – but the pastoral approach has been transformed. This is key – a distinguishing feature of his entire papacy has been a downgrading of even the importance of doctrine, with a corresponding new emphasis on the primacy of pastoral accompaniment, conscience, and discernment in the interior forum. Although there has been virtually no sign of any immediate change in doctrine, on LGBT or any other sexual issues, there have been repeated acknowledgements that doctrine can and must change over time, in response to changing conditions in the world. This is light years away from Benedict’s repeated references to “the church’s constant and unchanging tradition”.
I can live with that.
Reports of Pope Francis’ apology to the gay community drew extensive commentary in the press, with divided responses from LGBT sources. There many statements that this was welcome, but also many who pointed out that the statement was limited, and just didn’t go far enough.
On Sunday (3rd July) I had the privilege of participating in a live TV discussion about this, on BBC1 (available here on BBC iPlayer, at 30:41 from the start, to about 42:30).
For the benefit of readers unable to access iPlayer, here’s a summary of my contributions.
My first point was that this statement needs to be seen in a broader context. Coming from the pope, this attracted the attention, but there have been other apologies before, from both Protestant and Catholic leaders. When I was in Sweden for the European Forum of Lesbian and Gay Christian organizations, the Bishop of Gothenburg said in his address to the opening ceremony that the Church should make an act of repentance to the LGBT community, for the past harm it has done to them. At the Family Synod in Rome last October, the entire group of German speaking bishops made a collective apology to lesbian and gay Catholics.
I went on to say that this apology was just one part of a much broader interview, which could explain why it was so brief – and so disappointed some LGBT Catholics. While welcoming the apology, some said that it should also have gone into some explanation of why the apology was needed, what needs to be done to prevent future harm, and how can we begin a process of healing. However, it’s important that the apology has been made, however limited it is at the stage.
After inviting contributions from the rest of the panel, the moderator brought up the popular but mistaken idea that homosexuality is regarded as immoral in Catholic teaching, asking me directly, “Are you immoral?” My response was to point out that there is nothing in Church teaching against homosexuality – but only a few statements opposed to homosexual acts. The Church accepts that “homosexuality” as an orientation is entirely natural, and does not endorse attempts to change it.
There is of course, a great deal more than I could have said, given more time. Even this simple idea that homosexual genital acts are contrary to Church teaching, is not as straightforward as it seems. In a later discussion of the Anglican synod “Shared Conversations” process, I pointed out that this is not just about discussing “what the Bible says”, as one of the panellists had claimed, but also about hearing from the lived experience of lesbian and gay people themselves. To that, she quickly interrupted to talk about her second-hand experience of a gay man she knows, who she said had come to Christ and rejected his homosexual life. I deeply regret that I was not given the chance to reply that my own experience was the exact opposite: time had run out on us. Otherwise, I would have described how my attempt to live fully within the bounds of Church teaching on sex and marriage had left me steadily drifting away from all religious practice and belief. It was only later, after I had come to terms with my sexuality as an openly gay man in a committed, stable same-sex relationship, that I was able to return to the church. Since then, I have found, like many others, that fully embracing my sexuality in fact has enhanced my faith and my spirituality.
Looking back on my experience of how time severely limits how much one can say, I have more sympathy for Pope Francis’ failure to elaborate more fully in his apology. However, he has opened up a conversation. It’s now up to the rest of us, to keep that conversation going.
We must warmly welcome Pope Francis’ apology to gay Catholics, for the harm done to them by the Church:
In a press conference Sunday on the flight back to Rome after his weekend trip to Armenia, the pontiff said bluntly: “The church must say it’s sorry for not having comported itself well many times, many times.”
“I believe that the church not only must say it’s sorry … to this person that is gay that it has offended,” said the pope. “But it must say it’s sorry to the poor, also, to mistreated women, to children forced to work.”
“When I say the church: Christians,” Francis clarified. “The church is healthy. We are the sinners.”
“Who are we to judge them?” he asked, reframing his famous phrase from 2013 into the plural. “We must accompany well — what the Catechism says. The Catechism is clear.”
Initial reaction from the people most affected, gay and lesbian people themselves, illustrates how badly this apology was needed – there is a tone of bitterness in many responses that reveals the extent of the hurt. This is understandable. In many respects, it is indeed too little, too late.
However, as Frank DeBenardo points out at Bondings 2.0, a formal apology from the head of the Church, no matter how limited, will itself bring a degree of healing, putting into practice Francis’ vision of the Church as a “field hospital for the wounded”. There have been earlier, similar apologies from the German language small group at the family synod, and from the English bishops attending, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Bishop Peter Doyle. This clear signal from the man at the top will undoubtedly encourage many of their colleagues to follow suit.
For these reasons, I fervently welcome this apology, limited though it is.
Nevertheless, we must not lose sight of what is still needed.
We need recognition from the Church that gay and lesbian Catholics have not been simply “offended” – but in many cases severely damaged by the Church’s responses. This is illustrated by the high rates of suicide, self-harm, substance abuse and other mental health problems and internalised homophobia and self-hatred in many lesbian and gay people. The dangers of such self-hatred are clear from numerous examples of closeted gay men expressing their anger in acts of violence or murder.
We need recognition from the Church that the hurt and damage are not simply the result of careless and insensitive language, but are deeply embedded in formal Catholic teaching on sexuality, with its numerous internal contradictions on sexual ethics for gay men and lesbians. The Church claims that we need to “respect” the findings of science, and has accommodated these findings as they apply to the physical universe, and to evolution – but has conspicuously ignored any insights from physical or social science into matters of sexuality or gender identity.
We need recognition from the Church that the hurt and damage is not just historic – it continues today, both in the Church’s own documents, and in the profound damage done in parts of Africa. Catholic doctrine is clear: all violence against gay or lesbian Catholics should be condemned
It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.
(CDF, Letter to the Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986, para. 10)
Some African bishops tragically do the opposite, and instead encourage harsh criminal sanctions against homosexuals, which contributes immeasurably to popular homophobia and actual violence against gay men and women.
We need recognition from the Church that the hurt and harm perpetrated by the Church applies not only to gay men and lesbians, but also to transgender people, who continue to be damaged by the gender paranoia displayed by many bishops, and in the documents of the Family Synod and “Amoris Laetitia”, with its inaccurate labelling and condemnation of academic gender theory as “gender ideology”.
So, much much more is still needed.
However, we must recognise and value the enormous step that this in fact represents, in moving away from the practices of the past. A process of reconciliation has begun. It is now appropriate for LGBT Catholics to accept this in good spirit – and to engage ever more vigorously with their local bishops and pastors, to encourage an acceleration in the process, leading to ever increasingly emphatic welcome and inclusion in church.
I’ve been expecting this for some time – I just didn’t think it would come quite so quickly, even though it is desperately overdue.
Pope Francis says gays — and all the other people the church has marginalized, such as the poor and the exploited — deserve an apology.Francis was asked Sunday en route home from Armenia if he agreed with one of his top advisors, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who told a conference in Dublin in the days after the deadly Orlando gay club attack that the church owes an apology to gays for having marginalized them.
Francis responded with a variation of his famous “Who am I to judge?” comment and a repetition of church teaching that gays must not be discriminated against but treated with respect.
He said some politicized behaviors of the homosexual community can be condemned for being “a bit offensive for others.” But he said: “Someone who has this condition, who has good will and is searching for God, who are we to judge?”
Source: – LA Times
What grounds did I have for expecting at all?
Simply because there have now been a series of papal apologies to a wide range of groups previously attacked or persecuted by the Catholic authorities. Pope Benedict XVI apologised to Muslims for the Crusades, Pope Francis apologised to the indigenous people of South America for “ideological colonialism” (but not the the ideological colonialism in sexual and gender norms), and more recently to Protestants. LGBT people were at the back of the queue, but their turn had to come eventually. There are other examples too, which I do not now have time to enumerate.
As others have noted, a simple apology for “harm” is not enough, on its own. There needs to be an admission of how the harm was done, and how it is inextricably linked to core sexual doctrine. We also know from the theology of the sacrament of reconciliation, that simple confessing of sins is not enough to merit full forgiveness, unless it is accompanied by appropriate restitution for the harm done. In this context, restitution to those individuals already harmed is impossible – but restitution to the community would be possible, if it included an admission that the harm is a direct result of grievously disordered sexual doctrines, which need urgent reconsideration.
Now however, is not the time to carp. Let us first, offer profound thanks that Pope Francis has gone where none of his predecessors could – he’s asked of the entire Catholic community, “Who are WE to judge?”
This alone will enrage his many detractors on the orthotoxic Catholic right to height not previously seen. Let us for now, recognise his remarkable first step – and postpone for a later date, consideration in more depth, of what issurely required next.
In a commentary at Commonweal, Paige E. Hochschild uses Amoris Laetitiae in an attempt to interpret what Pope Francis thinks about love and marriage.
What is striking in this analysis for lgbt Catholics, is that almost everything she describes as Francis’ thinking on the value of marriage, is equally applicable to same-sex couples and queer families – and almost nothing in it excludes us. There are passing references to the expectation of children, but these are almost throwaway lines There is furthermore, a note that for Francis, this is not the pre-eminent concern:
Francis warns that marriage is often seen as a “mere spontaneous association…a private affair,” rather than a “firm decision to leave adolescent individualism behind.” As such, marriage is a “social institution…a shared commitment, for the good of society as a whole.” In this regard, Francis is closer to a Thomistic understanding of sexual intimacy as ordered to the common good than to the emphasis on the “unitive-procreative” nature of the conjugal act characteristic of recent theological reflection.
Earlier in the text, Hochschild is even more explicit on what she sees in Pope Francis’ as the essential attributes of love – and these can apply equally to same-sex couples:
Francis’s thinking becomes clearer after reading the first three chapters. Love and marriage, he notes, are not identical, but marriage is the appropriate home for love precisely because the essential character of marriage is indissolubility. More important, the end of marriage is conformity to Christ. These two theological ideas—indissolubility and growth in the likeness to Christ—sum up how Francis thinks about love
Source: Commonweal Magazine
In the pursuit over marriage equality around the world, LGBT Catholics have been accustomed to a range of standard arguments used by many bishops and other Catholic opponents of same-sex marriage. As our own advocates have regularly countered, many of the claims presented in support of these arguments are either unsubstantiated or just plain misrepresent reality. Others simply miss the point.
We now have a powerful ally in support of our counters to these “Catholic” defences of supposedly traditional marriage: Pope Francis. Continue reading Pope Francis’ Blistering Attack on Catholic Marriage Discourse.
In it’s response to Amoris Laetitia, the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics expresses disappointment with a number of features, but also sees reasons for hope. Although the document has not yet opened the door to full lgbt inclusion in the Catholic Church, this could be the start of a process that could lead us there. In a striking image, they suggest that “maybe the key to the door is under the mat”.
The difficulties that they find with Amor Laetitia have been pointed out also by others. Of possibly greater importance, certainly for the longer term, are the signs of hope that they see. They welcome the fact that Pope Francis has opened up new ways for the Church to engage pastorally with the reality of its members’ lives, including all its LGBTQI people of God, and the Exhortation’s reinforcing the priority of respect for the human dignity. Continue reading Rainbow Catholics Call for LGBT “Listening Process”