A papal revolution

There I was in late July, driving to work at 7:30 am, content and peaceful after a weekend with friends in their rural Ontario farm home. Life was good. And then it wasn’t. I turned on the radio as a form of pre-TV show research, and heard that two thousand years of Catholic teaching had been reversed and Pope Francis had changed Catholic theology regarding “gays and women.” As we all know, if we hear something on talk radio it must be true. By the time I got to work and turned on the television and looked at the Internet, everybody was explaining the “revolution” in papal views.

Within a half hour of listening to all this, I was part of it, with radio stations calling for my response—there are only a handful of Catholics in media who are willing to defend their Faith. One host, in Toronto, listened politely and asked good, intelligent questions. Another one, in Montreal, shouted and spoke over me when I dared to explain that his introduction and premise was hysterical and inaccurate.

Which is where we get to the heart of this decaying body. The real headline should have been, “Pope Francis affirms what Benedict said, but in a slightly different way” (which is not much of a headline at all). Same-sex attraction is not a sin but a challenge, and while surrendering to the temptation is sinful, resisting it brings one closer to God—as does, for example, normal men refusing to give in to sexual temptations and the culture of promiscuity.

Who are we to judge, said the pope, the fine Catholic priests who, while homosexual, are orthodox; faithful men who are celibate and call for celibacy among all clergy. He was not speaking of openly gay men who betray their vows, and in no way contradicted Benedict’s position regarding sexuality. He can’t anyways, because it is the Church’s position. God’s position.

The only difference in emphasis was regarding men with a homosexual attraction who seek to enter seminaries. It may well now become easier for them to do so, and I certainly support this. It is orthodoxy and sincerity that are required, and there must be substantial vetting of all men before they are ordained, whatever their sexual past and feelings. One of the finest and most Catholic priests I know rejected a homosexual lifestyle, and I suggest that if you have never met a committed, exemplary priest who once experienced same-sex tendencies you have had your eyes firmly closed.

As for women, Pope Francis stressed that female ordination was impossible, but that women should play a larger role in the Church. Northing particularly new there, and everything quintessentially Catholic. All the feminist zealots care about is the fantasy of women clergy, and it’s significant that they didn’t come forward to praise Pope Francis. Of course they didn’t, because he was being Catholic and they are anything but.

The storm lasted little more than a day, particularly after appropriate translations appeared and Catholic bloggers and journalists corrected the ignorant and the bigoted (the former simply don’t understand Catholicism, the latter simply hate it). This will not be the last time that the media run with a story they think makes the Church appear divided or depict the pope as wildly liberal. Good Lord, he was condemned as a figure of the Inquisition by the president of Argentina because he opposed gay adoption, libeled as a fascist fellow traveler because he dared to reject Marxist Liberation Theology.

The attacks will, however, stop soon, or at least will change shape and form. Critics will realize that rather than being an anti-Benedict, Francis is the successor to Benedict. He will extend and project Catholicism, subtracting nothing from its moral and sexual teaching, stressing its views on poverty, justice, and fairness, and communicating it all in his own style. Popes have always done this, always had different approaches and manners. It’s only that journalists tend to be prisoners of their age, with no knowledge of history. To be candid, I miss Benedict and I found him more, I suppose, comfortable. But Christ came not for our comfort but for our salvation—and to change the entire world. The heir of St. Peter is well on his way to doing that.

Michel Coren can be booked for speeches and his books purchased at michaelcoren.com.