Dear members of the Marcellin family 

Who am I to judge? 

This off the cuff response from Pope Francis early in his papacy to a question about gay priests gave the world some insight into a new language and tone around homosexuality coming from the Catholic Church. Last week, in a new a new documentary by Oscar nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky called Francesco, the Pope has made further comments, this time in relation to same-sex civil unions. 

Why the Pope's comments on civil unions are so momentous

Pope Francis with the documentary director Evgeny Afineevsky 

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family,” the Pope said. “They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to have is a civil union law – that way they are legally covered. I supported that.”  

The last part of this comment seems to refer to when Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires and he advocated the bishops support legal protections of gay unions, while maintaining their opposition to gay marriage at a time when the Argentine government was seeking to legislate for gay marriage. 

What we are witnessing is not a change to Catholic doctrine, but a distinctive change in language, tone and emphasis. Francis maintains he is following the Church’s teaching on the LGBTQ issue as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that gay people should be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”. In fact, one could argue that some previous pronouncements from the Church have not shown respect and thus been less in line with this teaching. 

The Pope has had a consistent message on this issue. In his apostolic exhortation on Family Life, Amoris Laetitiahe states that “every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected… while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided.” 

Respected Vatican journalist Christopher Lamb makes the observation that “more recently, Francis has warned against both defining or discriminating against people according to their sexuality, and that too much emphasis on the “adjective” [gay] rather than the “noun” [person]. Indeed, Francis told British comedian Stephen K Amos recently that “there are people that prefer to select or discard people because of the adjective. These people don’t have a human heart.” 

Our Marist heritage speaks with clarity on this issue also. A deep respect for all creation and all people is our starting point. One of our fellow Marist boys’ schools uses the following words to help describe one of the characteristics that would be hoped for in a graduate of the college. I am confident we would have the same aspirations here at Marcellin. 

His strength comes from an understanding of what it means to be a good man with a love, respect and appreciation for all God’s people regardless of gender, race, creed, sexual preference or social status.” 

A world that is less judgemental, more inclusive and more loving is a goal worth striving for. Pope Francis, without compromising Catholic Church doctrine or teaching, continues to be a shining example of what this world could look like. It is the type of leadership we desperately need, and that people are desperately craving. 

With blessings for the week ahead. 

John Hickey