Note: This column is the second of two parts on the papal in-flight remarks given Sunday evening as Pope Francis was returning from Rio de Janeiro.
Pope Francis’ candid remarks aboard the papal flight returning to Rome from Rio de Janeiro Sunday included many “soundbites” that the world secular media has managed to take out of context, but a read of the entire transcript shows a theological consistency with centuries of Catholic dogma and doctrine. One serious area of pastoral consideration often overlooked in the secular press is how the Church presently deals with divorced and remarried people who wish to remain within the confines of the Church. “The Church is a mother and in the Church we need to be merciful towards everyone. We shouldn’t just wait for the wounded to come to us, we need to go out and search for them,” Francis said. “Divorced people can take communion, it is those who have divorced and remarried that cannot. The Church is taking a very close look at pastoral initiatives for marriage. My predecessor in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Quarracino always used to say: ‘I consider half of today’s marriages to be invalid because people get married without realising it means forever. They do it out of social convenience, etc…,’” the Pontiff remembered. “The issue of invalidity needs to be looked into as well,” said the Pope.
The Holy Father revealed that he had developed sciatica in the early weeks of his pontificate, saying “It was so painful, I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone!” Further, he said that despite the need and calls for curial reform “I have been surprised by how many good people there are in the Vatican.” The Pope made some of his most pointed remarks about the man he appointed to lead the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), often referred to in the secular media as the “Vatican Bank.” Allegations have been made that not only did Monsignor Batista Ricca carry on an inappropriate homosexual relationship with a man 13 years ago, but that he is presently an active homosexual. The Pope made clear that so far, no substance has come to light regarding the latter accusation at all. “I have acted in accordance with Canon Law and ordered an investigation. None of the accusations against him have proved to be true. We haven’t found anything!” In regards to what may have happened 13 years ago, Francis was very direct. “It is often the case in the Church that people try to dig up sins committed during a person’s youth and then publish them. We are not talking about crimes or offences such as child abuse which is a whole different matter, we are talking about sins,” Francis pointed out. “If a lay person, a priest or a nun commits a sin and then repents of it and confesses, the Lord forgives and forgets. And we have no right not to forget, because then we risk the Lord not forgetting our own sins. I often think of St. Peter who committed the biggest sin of all, he denied Jesus,” the Pope reminded, “but I repeat, we have found no evidence against Mgr. Ricca.”
Finally, the Holy Father turned his attention to the so-called “gay lobby,” and made the remarks that have been so quoted, requoted, blown out of context and misquoted since Sunday evening. “There is so much being written about the gay lobby. I haven’t met anyone in the Vatican yet who has “gay” written on their identity cards,” Francis said. “There is a distinction between being gay, being this way inclined and lobbying. If a gay person is in eager search of God, who am I to judge them?” Referencing the clear statements of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on how homosexual persons should be treated as opposed to the sin of homosexual acts, Francis said “the Catholic Church teaches that gay people should not be discriminated against; they should be made to feel welcome.” The Pope then went on to condemn the very idea that one could “lobby” the Church. Being gay is not the problem,” he said, “lobbying is the problem and this goes for any type of lobby, business lobbies, political lobbies and Masonic lobbies.”