During an interview on a plane ride from Brazil, Pope Francis was discussing a few issues with reporters. He was being asked about an alleged “gay lobby” in the Vatican, rumors of which have been buzzing around Italy. Reports range from a group of gay priests who are friends and meet for lunch, to a lobby that is attempting to influence Vatican policy. The Pope was trying to distinguish between being gay, and being a lobby, indicated that the latter would be a real problem. Then he said something interesting.
“Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?” Pope Francis said in Italian. “You can’t marginalize these people.” Currently, priests who have “deeply seated” homosexuality are barred from entering Seminary, even if they are chaste. While the Pope’s comments do not reflect a change in official church policy, many think they indicate the Pope’s openness to consider the issue of openly homosexual, chaste priests.
Perhaps surprisingly, 71% of U.S. Catholics support civil marriages for same-sex couples, a rate that surpasses the general population and is higher than any other Christian denomination. A full 56% of American Catholics believe that sexual relations between two adults of the same gender are not a sin, compared to 46% of the general population. So at least in America, there is a growing openness to homosexuality in the Catholic congregation.
Other Churches have already taken steps to recognize homosexuality as legitimate. Both the Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches in the U.S. have blessings for same-sex marriages. They do not go as far as the full marriage right, but the ceremonies are very similar. Although no specific church or priest is required to perform such blessings in these churches (it is a personal choice of conscience), these are major denominations condoning same sex marriages.
The question of homosexuality in religion is a tricky one. Certainly, there are homosexuals who believe in God and would like to be part of the congregations of their choice. At the same time, religions are optional, in America at least. Homosexuality is against Islamic law and is viewed as a sin against God in Orthodox Judaism. Religions have rules, and certainly no one would fault a Temple for making its Rabbis keep kosher. They can go make their own reformed denomination, pro-bacon Judaism. Such splits are actually the rule in the history of religion, not the exception.
What about a non-practicing or reformed bacon lover, though? Back to the original question: if a priest is chaste, does it matter which sex they are abstaining from? Or in the words of Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge?”
The Wall Street Journal, Pope Signals Openness to Gay Priests: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324354704578635401320888608.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories
WSB Radio, Pope Francis Says He Won’t Judge Gay Priests: http://www.wsbradio.com/news/ap/top-news/pope-says-he-wont-judge-gay-priests/nY6qj/
Religion Facts, Religious Views on Homosexuality: http://www.religionfacts.com/homosexuality/comparison_chart.htm
The Gay Christian Network: http://www.gaychristian.net/
Religion & Politics, Being Gay at a Catholic University: http://religionandpolitics.org/2013/06/18/being-gay-at-a-catholic-university/
Public Religion Research Institute, Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: http://publicreligion.org/research/2011/03/for-catholics-open-attitudes-on-gay-issues/
Chabad, Is There Anything Wrong With Sinful Thought? http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1754248/jewish/Is-There-Anything-Wrong-with-Sinful-Thought.htm