Pope Francis again angered conservative Catholics this week when he listed groups to whom he believes the church owes an apology.
I’ve seen it over and over again over the years: whenever a church leader — usually a pastor instead of the Pope — goes against the tired old judgmental clichés and says something unexpected, the masses tend to get angry before stopping to think.
Backlash over a statement by Pope Francis earlier this week is the latest example.
On Sunday, while en route from Armenia, he was asked by reporters if he agreed with a statement made by one of his top advisors who said days after the deadly Orlando nightclub shooting that the church owes an apology to gays for having marginalized them.
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? We must accompany them. I think the church must not only apologize … to a gay person it offended, but we must apologize to the poor, to women who have been exploited, to children forced into labor, apologize for having blessed so many weapons” and for having failed to accompany families who faced divorces or experienced other problems.
Homosexuals, the poor, women, children. That’s quite a list of people who are owed an apology.
The Catholic News Agency said the Pontiff’s response raised eyebrows “in part because it has been taken by many as an open endorsement for the gay lifestyle, deviating from Church teaching.”
However, that group pointed to the Catechism, a document with questions and answers regarding the essentials of Catholic faith and doctrine:
He cited the Catechism, saying that homosexual individuals “must not be discriminated against, (but) must be respected and accompanied pastorally.”
It goes on to add, “the Catechism insists that most gay individuals face “a trial” due to their sexual orientation, and “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
To that end, it says, Francis’s statement “is in no way an endorsement of the gay lifestyle, but rather clearly echoes Church teaching and displays his genuine pastoral concern for a group that has and frequently still does face hostility, including, at times, from within the Church.”
To put it more clearly, the last place from which anyone seeking God should face rudeness or hate is the church itself.
It’s a shame more church people can’t see that for themselves.