Explaining away the pope

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Michael Sean Winters put up a good post today critiquing conservative Catholics for downplaying the significance of Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge” remark about gays. In particular he singled out San Francisco Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, who interprets the remark along the lines of “love the sinner, hate the sin”:

While the Church does not judge individuals, the Church does judge actions, for we know that some acts violate human dignity while others make us more truly human according to the image in which God originally made us.

Winters might also have mentioned Cardinal Dolan, who takes a similar hermenuetic line: “Actions?  Yes; the heart? No.  No change in Church teaching here . . . or no intended ‘correction’ to a more ‘dour’ approach by his predecessors.”

Against this, Winters cites a priest he knows, who considers the distinction bizarre: “Actions are done by people so how can you not really judge an action without some of the judgment falling on the person?” After all, when a priest imposes penance after Confession, he is passing judgment on the sinner, not the sin.

In fact, however, the distinction that Francis was making in his remarks was not between person and action, but between person and lobby. As in: gay lobby, bad; gay person who seeks God and is of good will, not to be judged.

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.

What seems to concern Francis is the problem of cabals in the Vatican, just as what concerned the American founders was the danger of faction — groups acting for their own rather than the common interest (see Federalist 10). In other words, Francis reserved the right to judge not actions but factions.

  • tony

    Hey Prof….you “forgot” to quote the pope’s next sentence ” 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”

    So if the pope was trying to love the sin, why would he claim as his source something as hatefilled as the catechism?

    can you please point me to the parable where Jesus said that he wasn’t going to stone the women who was caught committing adultery because adultery isn’t a sin?

    you can judge whether someone did or didn’t commit an objectively sinful act WITHOUT judging how they came to that act….in particular whether they committed the act with full freedom and full knowledge.

    wow…stay away from the sacraments…you have no idea what you are talking about…when a persons receives a penance after confession….THEY ARE NOT BEING JUDGED….He who knows not sin is the one who is judged….the penitent receives a penance so that he can make up for the temporal consequences of his sin. the penitent’s penance has nothing to do with alleviates God’s “judgement”…this is all based on Christ.

  • Pete

    I’d suggest any religion to leave the people alone and let them believe whatever they chose and stop to behave like corporations peddling their product. for their own benefit and selling blatant lies to inversionists in their endevours is imoral in itself. If the vatican really wants to open up make the vast “secret” archives public so people can understand what has been going on for 2,000 years. After all what’s there to hide? Proof that Jesus was the son of god or was just a delusionary mad revolutionary, female popes, duplicate popes, the Borgian influence, the real value of the vatican wealth and where it’s located and where it’s being adiministreted. I mean, I’m very septical about all the hulla-bulla of the new pope. He poopes, he fornicates or jerks off, he’s a human. If he opens up he’ll gain billions of regigious addicts even muslims. If he doesn’t, the church will keep on declining, whatever the Brazilians do or profess or wht other people expect. The church has more adepts in countries where people are ignorant and in dispare. After all popes also die even if they pretend to have a direct line with their all-powerful “saviour”. Farytalers and imposters i think.

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  • robert

    Mr. Silk , Ive commented on your seeming lack of knowledge of Catholicism before and now I know you don’t know what youre talking about and am beginning you just have an agenda, facts be damned. Tony is absolutely right! The Pope clearly referred to the Catechism regarding homosexuality as the Church’s teaching. Just because some of your bad excuses for a priest references suggest that its difficult to separate the act from the actor doesn’t refute Church teaching, it just suggests that they are gay or shouldn’t be priests if they cant figure out the basic message of the Gospel! Ive heard some priests say some really weird things but to say you cant love the sinner but reject the sin takes the cake! Given your clearly ignorant posts, and that I am sure you are not stupid, I can only conclude you have a set agenda to confuse people to think this Pope is trying to change Church teaching. So no my agenda is show follow your agenda and expose it whenever possible. Please Mr. Silk, either be more careful or stop trying to confuse people!

  • robert

    Tony, News Flash! The Secret Vatican Archives aren’t really secret! And all those conspiracy theories swirling around in your head are historical facts! The Vatican Archives aren’t hiding anything – all those bad Church “secrets” can be found in history, and other books. . The term Secret simply means its not a library open to the public; its only open to scholars so we don’t have people like you tearing through ancient documents looking for the secret burial place of Christ, and which Cardinal killed John F. Kennedy! And just because you pleasure yourself regularly doesn’t mean everyone else does, including the Pope. Believe it or not there are people who have some control over their emotional and sexual impulses in order to live a higher quality of life. But then you wouldn’t know that since you don’t have a clue about the transcendent let alone God.

  • Yes, Tony and Robert, the pope referred to the Catechism regarding homosexuality, but only insofar as it supports his refusal to judge: “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.’”(http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/world-youth-day/a-note-on-the-popes-remarks-to-journalists-en-route-to-rome). I didn’t take issue with the proposition that one could love the sinner and hate the sin; what the priest in question suggested — and what I’d argue — is that loving and hating is different from judging. The pope was fully prepared to negatively judge “the fact of a lobby”; i.e. a cabal in the Vatican. What he refused to negatively judge was “the fact of a person being gay.” That’s what he said. That’s all I said.

  • The individuals Pope Francis is referring to when he asks that we not marginalize them, is anyone who has some level of same-sex sexual attractions. He is not referring to how they might express behave in response to those attractions. What the Pope is referring to in terms of who he asks that we not judge is anyone, as even the Pope is only like a trial lawyer, whether for the defense or for the prosecution. Depending on the topic and point at hand. He knows that no lawyer ends up being the judge or the jury. Yet he also knows that he is invited to represent his position well in the court setting, so to speak. The setting here and his position is that same-sex sexual attractions are not sinful, and all intimate same-sex sexual behavior is sinful.

    Pope Francis, thus is not judging at all. He is saying that he understands how someone could say, “the fact of a person being gay.” He would invite them to restate that, as something like this, “the fact of a person having same-sex sexual attractions, and maybe or maybe not pursuing intimate same-sex sexual behavior. He would go on to say that he would not view the person’s identity as primarily dependent upon either their sexual attractions or their sexual behavior. He would conclude by saying if the person feels that because they experience same-sex sexual attractions, that they then are correct in saying they are gay, and then saying that, it justifies same-sex sexual behavior – this would not be consistent with his perspective or the perspective of the Catholic church as to what is viewed by the church as pleasing to God.

    Pope Francis wasn’t referring to actions (or behavior) when he was referring to tendencies. The Pope wasn’t asking anyone to go to Confession because of the same-sex sexual attractions that they experience.

    The following article by Scott P. Richert explains well what Mark is confused about. I have made several comments to this article, joining with Scott in explaining the context of sentences such as, “gay person who seeks God and is of good will, not to be judged”: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2013/on-the-popes-remarks-about-homosexuality
    If you click on “Mike Jones” as a hotlink of any of the comments that I have posted there – you are shown all of the comments that I have made to this article.

    It’s amazing to me that in most article on Pope Francis’ statements, and even here, Mark only selects certain portions of the full statements that Pope Francis made on this topic, in his return flight from Brazil interview with reporters.

    After reviewing the article in Crisis Magazine, come back and see if it is not Mark Silk, here, who is doing the political spin work.

  • tony

    If you look at wider quote the pope is also making a distinct between inclinations and tendencies …. “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [i.e., same-sex attraction] is not the problem … they’re our brothers.”

    So there are two distinctions being made in this statement: person must accept the Lord and the TENDENCY is not the problem. So if the tendency isn’t the problem then it logically follows that the act is a problem…..which is what JP taught, Benedict taught and the catechism taught. all of these people plus the current pope remain fully prepared to “judge” acts not inclinations.

    “I didn’t take issue with the proposition that one could love the sinner and hate the sin “…uhhmmm …the second sentence in the post says basically these cardinals are trying to rob the meaning of the pope’s words by foisting an unrealistic construct on this issue. and the same goes for cardinal dolan. and then some priest said you can’t separate acts from people.

    “loving and hating is different from judging”….what are the implications of this statement? are you proposing that you can love the sinner, hate the sin and either judge the person or not? this doesn’t make any sense in a world where each human being has an absolute dignity (which is the natural consequence of God becoming man) . if you love the sin then in a world with individual dignity you are hating the person and judging them to be unworthy to be the person God intended them to be.

    btw the Pope can’t “judge” anyone….from the pc sins to the non-pc sins. because only God can decide whether someone committed a seriously evil act with full knowledge and full freedom. In fact, the person coming closest to judging in this scenario is Michael Winters who seems to have special insight into why bishops keep intentionally committing evil acts.

  • etseq

    Hey Mark – does each blog author have control over the comments on his or her blog here? The reason I ask is that Jonathan Merritt keeps deleting comments I make on his gay related articles because I criticize his ex-gay rhetoric and his assertion that child molestation cause homosexuality. I can understand that it embarasses him considering his past but I don’t think it reflects well on RNS as a news service to allow such hypocrisy to go unchallenged. If Merritt were just some ordinary citizen, I could care less if he wants to pray his gay away but he is a public figure and a news commentator. I call foul play….

  • Same-sex sexual attraction is triggered by molestation for some individuals. It can be from either same-sex sexual molestation or from opposite-sex sexual molestation.

    I have documented the gay affirming websites that have deleted my comments here: http://ethnologystudy.blogspot.com/ It’s always disappointing when this happens, when you are trying to be respectful and present your perspective.

  • etseq

    You are one sick puppy – you are more like a stalker than anything I have ever experienced. You have no evidence to support your theory about molestation.

    PS – There is no such thing as “same sex attaraction” – that is a made up phrase by homophobic christians. You use that term to dehumanize gay and lesbian people.

    Shame on you!

  • etseq

    You really need some psychiatric help – I looked at your blog and you are OBSESSED with gay men. You definitely meet the criteria of a homophobe – that is a person, usually a man, who is insecure in his own sexuality that he projects his own internalized hatred onto gay people in general.

    You really need some help before you crack….

  • etseq

    Ha I just did some research on you and just as I thought, you are an ex-gay quack. For anyone following, see this expose http://www.lansingcitypulse.com/lansing/article-4306-the-straight-jacket.html

    And this video documenting how you abuse your so called clients:

    I actually feel sorry for you that your religion has twisted you into such self-loathing but that does not excuse the harm you are doing to other gay men.

    Get some help and stop the damage your are doing to your own people…

  • I think you are referring to perspectives such as these in our culture today:


    It’s important to differentiate the idea of, same-sex sexual attractions, from the idea of, same-sex attractions. Most of the same-sex attractions that people experience are not sexual in nature.

  • I’m pleased that you took the time to look at my blog site. I think the articles about what organizations deleted my comments can help you understand why Jonathan might have deleted your comments. I put the information on Our Culture and Society so that each person reading it could form their own opinions about the concepts of freedom of speech in our social media of today.

    Tone is important in social media.

  • Yes, this is all public information, easily found by doing an internet search. That’s the positive value of social media today. I welcome and encourage people to continue to search and research.


    It appears as though the main link to: http://www.msu.edu/user/jonesmi is no longer operative through the MSU server.

  • etseq

    You are a kook – you cite wikipedia pages you created.

  • etseq

    Man, you sound just as controlling and condescending as that expose article stated. Get over yourself…

  • etseq

    Again, with the controlling and condescending tone. You are also incredibly self-centered – I would almost say you have a narcissistic personality disorder but that would be practicing therapy without a license – which is exactly what you do…

  • etseq

    I also love how you use an mse.edu web address as if you are a faculty member – you have a frickin horticulturall degree and as an alumnae you can create your own webpage. You are in no way affiliated with university however. Very deceptive….

  • etseq

    God what a loon – the articles you cite, even though they are only wiki pages that anyone on the net can edit, don’t even make the distinction between “attraction” and “sexual attraction” – this is just more ex-gay BS that you have made up so that you can try to repress your innate sexuality. No secular psychiatric or psychological association recognizes the distinctions you make…

  • I checked with the MSU help desk, since I hadn’t went to the non-current website information there for some months now. And because a web search didn’t come up with it any longer. They said it can be accessed by entering: https://www.msu.edu/~jonesmi/