"If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" -- Pope Francis
Boy, did the media pounce on those last five words. Suddenly, the Church has changed its entire position on everything. Even though this was quite some time ago, it seems to still carry traction with those wishing for the Church to approve all of the modern ideas about relationships and freedom. Well, I hate to be the one to disappoint, but I don't think that is going to happen.
The problem that everyone seems to ignore (except Church commentators) is the first part of that sentence: "If a person. . . seeks God and has good will. . ." I left the specific word out on purpose, because one could put any of the common issues that are hot topics today, e.g., gay, pro-choice. You see, the big issue is what does it mean to "seek God". The Pope's, and certainly not the Church's, definition of "seeking God" has not changed, just the response to it. More on that later.
The media, and much of the world, is so hoping that the standards of the Church will loosen so that many of the practices of today's society will suddenly become acceptable. Part of the problem is that everyone else's idea of freedom means license; but, the Church still holds to the idea that
1731 Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude. --Catechism of the Catholic Church
That doesn't mean you can do what ever you like or whatever "feels good". Actually quite the opposite:
1740 Threats to freedom. The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything. It is false to maintain that man, “the subject of this freedom,” is “an individual who is fully self-sufficient and whose finality is the satisfaction of his own interests in the enjoyment of earthly goods.”33 Moreover, the economic, social, political, and cultural conditions that are needed for a just exercise of freedom are too often disregarded or violated. Such situations of blindness and injustice injure the moral life and involve the strong as well as the weak in the temptation to sin against charity. By deviating from the moral law man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighborly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth. (2108, 1887) --Catechism of the Catholic Church
But, this is exactly what so many folks want. People seems to forget, as well, that Jesus sort of had something to say about this concept as well. His first words are reported in Mark 1
15“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”When he cures the beggar at the pool of Bethesda,
14After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” --John 5After the folks left the woman accused of being a prostitute,
11Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.” -- John 8
The words "repent" and "do not in any more" are kind of important in the whole scheme of things, you know. Interestingly, I think that Pope Francis is being the kind of pastor that Jesus emulates in that last quote from John: loving, caring, forgiving, but still with the admonition of "do not sin any more".
Of course for modern authors to even understand what this is all about, they will have to return to the days when folks actually knew what sin meant. God forbid that they remember the Gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord; or the Capital Sins: pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth, or even the list of virtues from Paul's famous treatise on Charity:
4* Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated,d 5it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,e 6it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.f --1 Corinthians 13
Yes, the concept of SIN is critical to fully understanding what all of this is all about. And, one must remember that Jesus didn't say that he was replacing the Old Testament Law found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. What he actually said is a little scary:
17* “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
18Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.
19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
20I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. --Matthew 5So all of those things considered sin are still relevant folks; but, what Pope Francis is trying to tell us is that we are not the judge and we are required to be open, honest, loving, caring, graceful, and, most importantly, forgiving. WE DO NOT KNOW THE HEART OF ANOTHER PERSON!!!!!
All of us who want to become Christian have a lot of responsibility to try to live this way of life: Beatitudes, Gifts of the Spirit, Capital Sins (avoid these), definition of love by Paul and a whole host of positive concepts by which we can live our lives. And we must do that by actually living the life, not just talking about it. Not easy, but it's the right thing to do!
So, during this Lenten season, buck up and go to Confession. Clear the air and move on. Remember God loves you very much and will forgive you. (Luke 15: 11-32 - The Generous Father)