Back in July 2013, Pope Francis was on a plane ride back from Brazil when he was asked about Monsignor Battista Ricca. Ricca was Francis’ “eyes and ears” within the Vatican bank, appointed by Francis after launching reforms with an attempt at cracking down on major financial scandal and abuses, such as money laundering and tax evasion. But then l’Espresso published charges that Ricca had behaved scandalously by having an affair with a captain in the Swiss Army. There were also claims about getting beaten up in a gay bar and getting stuck in an elevator with a young man. All of the charges were old, and this is an important point.
These charges were themselves coming to light only weeks after claims of a “gay lobby” at the Vatican. So everyone was all atwitter about it.
Francis was asked on the plane and he said he ordered the investigation required by Canon Law and that the investigation didn’t find anything to accuse him of at that point. He added:
POPE FRANCIS: This is the answer. But I would like to add something else on this: I see that so many times in the Church, outside of this case and also in this case, they go to look for the “sins of youth,” for instance, and this is published. Not the crimes, alas. Crimes are something else: the abuse of minors is a crime. No, the sins.
But if a person, lay or priest or Sister, has committed a sin and then has converted, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is important for our life. When we go to confession and truly say: “I have sinned in this,” the Lord forgets and we don’t have the right not to forget, because we run the risk that the Lord won’t forget our [sins]. That’s a danger. This is important: a theology of sin. I think so many times of Saint Peter: he committed one of the worst sins, which is to deny Christ, and with this sin he was made Pope. We must give it much thought.
But, returning to your more concrete question: in this case, I’ve done the investigatio previa and we found nothing. This is the first question. Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Goodness knows! So much is written of the gay lobby. I still have not met one who will give me the identity card with “gay”. They say that they exist. I think that when one meets a person like this, one must distinguish the fact of being a gay person from the fact of doing a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. That’s bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in such a beautiful way, it says, Wait a bit, as is said and says: “these persons must not be marginalized because of this; they must be integrated in society.”
The problem isn’t having this tendency, no. We must be brothers, because this is one, but there are others, others. The problem is the lobbying of this tendency: lobby of the avaricious, lobby of politicians, lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. This, for me, is the more serious problem.
Most in the media Ryan Lizza’d this quote down to “Who am I to judge?” and said that the entirety of that phrase was about everything to do with being gay.
But if you read it with even a minor understanding of Christianity and its emphasis on forgiveness, you saw that the Pope was articulating one of the most basic and important aspects of Christianity. That is, he reminded the reporter that forgiveness of sins means we don’t dwell on them:
“When we go to confession and truly say: ‘I have sinned in this,’ the Lord forgets and we don’t have the right not to forget, because we run the risk that the Lord won’t forget our [sins].”
He’s saying that Ricca may have done everything he’s accused of and more and that if he repented of those sins, he’s forgiven by God, and we’re all to forget those sins.
Later he states his belief that there’s a difference between having a sinful tendency and advocating for the same.
The media, either too politically motivated or too ignorant to accurately convey Francis’ remarks, began claiming that Pope Francis was going to change church teaching on homosexuality.
This NBC News story is a great example of how desperately the media wanted to interpret Francis as affirming their own doctrinal views on sex. “Could five little words uttered in 2013 change the course of the Catholic Church?” they asked.
It also explains the media’s complete inability to handle Francis’ strong affirmation of conscientious objection rights as human rights during his most recent plane trip home to the Vatican. Last week the media and other elites engaged in nothing short of a temper tantrum over a, frankly, relatively minor meeting with Kim Davis at the Vatican Embassy.
In any case, the Vatican is preparing for a big meeting of bishops from around the world to discuss the family. Just as it was about to get going, a priest who has worked for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 2003, 43-year-old Polish Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, publicly announced that he’s in a gay relationship.
Now, if you are over the age of four or so and even mildly familiar with Roman Catholic teaching on clergy and celibacy, you will not be surprised to learn that he was relieved of his duties, which also include teaching at two of Rome’s Pontifical universities.
That is, you would not be surprised unless you are a journalist, in which case you are shocked and appalled to learn that the Roman Catholic Church by and large doesn’t have married clergy and that all sexual relationships outside of marriage are forbidden.
David Beard, who links to a BuzzFeed article, is executive editor of Public Radio International and formerly with the Washington Post, the Associated Press, National Journal and other outlets. And, apparently, he made it through to his career without knowing that the Roman Catholic Church does not look lightly on its clergy having boyfriends or girlfriends, secret wives, baby mommas, sugar daddies, and the like. Who knew?
Remember what happened to the aptonymed Florida priest Father Alberto Cutié after a tabloid exposed the fact he had a girlfriend?
Carolyn Ryan, a senior editor for politics at the New York Times, shared Beard’s commentary:
No, not “wow.” More like, “duh.”
Politico Chief Economic Correspondent Ben White, whose brother is a priest, spent much of Saturday on social media trying to explain to fellow reporters and media outlets that the Catholic Church doesn’t actually permit boyfriends or girlfriends for its clergy.
More than anything it shows how the media did a disservice to itself by failing to understand Francis’ comments on judgment when they were offered back in 2013. That failure to even remotely comprehend the difference between judging sin and judging people who repent of that sin has led to faulty journalism.
Of course, a proper understanding of Francis’ comments raises all sorts of difficult questions about what is sin, much less what differing confessions of faith have to say about what is and is not sin — questions our doctrinally strident media are mostly not capable of handling or eager to tackle.
Whatever you want to say about Charamsa, the gay Vatican priest, there is no question that his posture is one of being proud of being in a gay relationship and lobbying for a change in church teaching. We know this because he said so. Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” question was said specifically in regard to someone not in those categories.
The media seem to try to force Francis’ statements to fit their own political and doctrinal views far more than is fitting. And the result is widespread confusion and misinformation.