Pope Francis spoke, secular media heard something else
Editor’s Note: The following commentary appeared today on the Archdiocese of Cincinnati blog, “Being Catholic.” The post was written by Dan Andriacco, veteran Director of Communications for the archdiocese. “Being Catholic” is located on the internet at http://www.catholiccincinnati.org/being-catholic/.
As a former journalist with 24 years as a reporter and editor at a daily newspaper, I try to be understanding when news coverage of the Catholic Church falls short of the gold standard. News budgets at TV stations and newspapers have been shredded over the last decade, causing staffs to shrink. Few news organizations have religion experts on staff.
But the recent media feeding frenzy over Pope Francis’s off-the-cuff remarks about homosexuality was truly exasperating.
Let’s see what the Holy Father actually said. Here’s a transcript provided by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
The Question to Pope Francis from Ilse, a journalist on the Papal flight
I would like to ask permission to pose a rather delicate question. Another image that went around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca and the news about his personal life. I would like to know, your Holiness, what will be done about this question. How should one deal with this question and how does your Holiness wish to deal with the whole question of the gay lobby?
The Pope’s Answer
“Regarding the matter of Monsignor Ricca, I did what Canon Law required and did the required investigation. And from the investigation, we did not find anything corresponding to the accusations against him. We found none of that. That is the answer. But I would like to add one more thing to this: I see that so many times in the Church, apart from this case and also in this case, one looks for the “sins of youth,” for example, is it not thus? And then these things are published. These things are not crimes. The crimes are something else: child abuse is a crime. But sins, if a person, or secular priest or a nun, has committed a sin and then that person experienced conversion, the Lord forgives and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we go to confession and we truly say “I have sinned in this matter,” the Lord forgets and we do not have the right to not forget because we run the risk that the Lord will not forget our sins, eh? This is a danger. This is what is important: a theology of sin. So many times I think of St. Peter: he committed one of the worst sins denying Christ. And with this sin they made him Pope. We must think about that fact often.
“But returning to your question more concretely: in this case [Ricca] I did the required investigation and we found nothing. That is the first question. Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Agh… so much is written about the gay lobby. I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word gay. They say there are some gay people here. I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good. They are bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this point beautifully but says, wait a moment, how does it say, it says, these persons must never be marginalized and “they must be integrated into society.
“The problem is not that one has this tendency; no, we must be brothers, this is the first matter. There is another problem, another one: the problem is to form a lobby of those who have this tendency, a lobby of the greedy people, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. This is the most serious problem for me. And thank you so much for doing this question. Thank you very much!”
Note that the Pope quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church. That should be a pretty clear indication that there’s nothing new in what he said, not even the presumed “change of tone” that several media organizations discovered. His remarks presume that homosexual activity is a sin, and can be forgiven like all sins. He also presumes that homosexual orientation is not itself sinful, and that homosexual persons mustn’t be marginalized.
The Cincinnati Enquirer accurately quoted me as saying: “There’s nothing he said that would imply anything contrary to the church’s teaching that, first, homosexual actions are immoral and, second, homosexual orientation is not. I’m not seeing a big headline in here.”
But one would never know that from the end-of-the-world headlines in most mainstream media. The Huffington Post approach was typical in saying, “Breakthrough: Pope OK with Gays.” Fr. Jonathan Morris, program director of the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM Radio, wrote: “This is the worst coverage of a religious story I have seen to date.” That’s saying a lot, because there’s a lot of terrible coverage of religion.
A blog site that I have admired for a long time, www.getreligion.org, does a great job of critiquing good and bad coverage of religion. The blog isn’t restricted to the Catholic Church, but we get a good share of the attention because we get a lot of media coverage. Their analysis of Pope Francis gay flap was typically excellent. Check it out at