Fasten your seatbelts for another in-flight news conference that will probably bring unexpected turbulence.
The Catholic church and other Christian communities must apologize to gay people and to many groups they have let down or offended throughout history, Pope Francis has said. 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.” The pope was responding to a question about remarks German Cardinal Reinhard Marx made last week that the Catholic church should apologize to the gay community for marginalizing them. “I will repeat the same thing I said on the first trip,” Francis said today, referencing the press conference he held on a return flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2013. “I will also repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that [gay people] should not be discriminated against, that they have to be respected, pastorally accompanied.” “The matter is a person that has that condition [and] that has good will because they search for God,” said the pontiff. “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.”
The pope said people have a right to complain about certain gay-pride demonstrations that purposefully offend the faith or sensitivities of others, but that is not what Cardinal Marx was talking about, he said. Pope Francis said when he was growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of a “closed Catholic culture,” good Catholics would not even enter the house of a person who was divorced. “The culture has changed and thanks be to God!” “We Christians have much to apologize for and not just in this area,” he said, referring again to its treatment of homosexual persons. “Ask forgiveness and not just say we’re sorry. Forgive us, Lord.” Too often, he said, priests act as lords rather than fathers, “a priest who clubs people rather than embraces them and is good, consoles.” Pope Francis insisted there are many good priests in the world and “many Mother Teresas,” but people often do not see them because “holiness is modest.”
Crux, meantime, touches on a few other important points in the presser—including the subject of women deacons:
The idea of an expanded papacy came from German Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the personal aide of Benedict XVI, who recently suggested that the papal ministry not includes both an “active” and a “contemplative dimension in Francis and Benedict. Insisting “there is only one pope,” Francis said that Benedict had promised to be obedient to his successor and “he’s done it.” Laughing, Francis then said he’s heard, without being absolutely sure if it’s true, that some people have gone to Benedict to try to complain about his own leadership, “and in great Bavarian style, he kicked them out!” …On women deacons, Francis expressed surprise at the magnitude of the reaction to his decision to create a commission to study the question after a recent meeting with the superiors of women’s religious orders from around the world. “The next day, it was as if the Church had opened the door to women deacons, but that’s not true,” he said, saying its primary role will be to ascertain the role of female deacons in the early Church. “I believe this theme has been studied a lot, and it won’t be difficult to shed light,” the pope said. More important, Francis said, is making sure the voices of women are heard in the decision-making process. “Women think in a different way than us men, and you can’t make a good or correct decision without hearing women,” he said.
UPDATE: A full transcript of the press conference has been released. You can read it here. Excerpt:
Cindy Wooden, CNS: Holiness, within the past few days Cardinal Marx, the German, speaking at a large conference in Dublin which is very important on the Church in the modern world, said that the Catholic Church must ask forgiveness to the gay community for having marginalized these people. In the days following the shooting in Orlando, many have said that the Christian community had something to do with this hate toward these people. What do you think? Pope Francis: I will repeat what I said on my first trip. I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally. One can condemn, but not for theological reasons, but for reasons of political behavior…Certain manifestations are a bit too offensive for others, no? … But these are things that have nothing to do with the problem. The problem is a person that has a condition, that has good will and who seeks God, who are we to judge? And we must accompany them well…this is what the catechism says, a clear catechism. Then there are traditions in some countries, in some cultures that have a different mentality on this problem. I think that the Church must not only ask forgiveness – like that “Marxist Cardinal” said (laughs) – must not only ask forgiveness to the gay person who is offended. But she must ask forgiveness to the poor too, to women who are exploited, to children who are exploited for labor. She must ask forgiveness for having blessed so many weapons. The Church must ask forgiveness for not behaving many times – when I say the Church, I mean Christians! The Church is holy, we are sinners! – Christians must ask forgiveness for having not accompanied so many choices, so many families…I remember from my childhood the culture in Buenos Aires, the closed Catholic culture. I go over there, eh! A divorced family couldn’t enter the house, and I’m speaking of 80 years ago. The culture has changed, thanks be to God. Christians must ask forgiveness for many things, not just these. Forgiveness, not just apologies. Forgive, Lord. It’s a word that many times we forget. Now I’m a pastor and I’m giving a sermon. No, this is true, many times. Many times … but the priest who is a master and not a father, the priest who beats and not the priest who embraces, forgives and consoles. But there are many. There are many hospital chaplains, prison chaplains, many saints. But these ones aren’t seen. Because holiness is modest, it’s hidden. Instead it’s a little bit of blatant shamelessness, it’s blatant and you see so many organizations of good people and people who aren’t as good and people who … because you give a purse that’s a little big and look at you from the other side like the international powers with three genocides. We Christians – priests, bishops – we have done this. But also we Christians have Teresa of Calcutta and many Teresa of Calcuttas. We have many servants in Africa, many laity, many holy marriages. The wheat and the weeds. And so Jesus says that the Kingdom … we must not be scandalized for being like this. We must pray so that the Lord makes these weeds end and there is more grain. But this is the life of the Church. We can’t put limits. All of us are saints, because all of us have the Holy Spirit. But we are all sinners, me first of all! Alright. I don’t know if I have replied.
Photo: CNS/Paul Haring