Though Pope Francis was elected to the papacy less than a month ago, his outgoing personality and outward devotion to the poor and the sick have warmed the hearts of both Catholics and non-Catholics around the world. Some, however, appear to be hoping that Francis’ style signals a change in the teachings of the Church.
According to LifeSiteNews, at least one gay activist has decided that recent statements by Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C., regarding the fact that the Church welcomes gay people in the parish community, indicate that the Church is changing its position on gay marriage.
Terrence Weldon, a British gay activist who authors a blog called, “Queering the Church,” believes the statements of both cardinals reflects “the conspicuously more pastoral approach” of Pope Francis.
In the same interviews, however, in which Dolan and Wuerl discussed Catholic outreach to gays, the cardinals also affirmed the Church’s teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman.
On Easter Sunday, Dolan, a guest on This Week, said, “When it comes to sexual love, that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.”
Similarly, Wuerl told Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace that though “the Church is probably…the most understanding of the human condition of any institution…at the same time it does remind not only gay people, but also heterosexual, straight people, ‘You’re not supposed to be following a moral law apart from what Christ has said to us.'”
Because Wuerl said “it’s not a great problem” to have gay people in a parish even though gay “marriage” would not be condoned, Weldon wrote that language used by Wuerl moves the Church a step closer to accepting “gay marriage” and homosexuality.
Weldon said that the key is that, in practice, the “formal rules,” are “ignored” in most parishes where “a more sensitive, pastoral welcome applies instead.”
“I hope that married gay and lesbian Catholics will take Cardinal Wuerl at his word, and take their places in Catholic parishes alongside other married couples- and expect the equal treatment, without encountering ‘great problems,’ that the Cardinal has given them grounds to expect,” Weldon wrote.
However, Father Peter West, Vice President for Missions of Human Life International, told LifeSiteNews that Wuerl’s comments cannot be taken as a softening by the Church on homosexuality or “gay marriage.”
“Despite what some anti-Catholic activists wish he said, Cardinal Wuerl simply restated the Church’s long held position that the Church preaches love for sinners- which includes all of us- but a hatred of sin.”
West explained, “Catholics of good will are welcomed to Mass, but only Catholics in the state of grace are allowed to receive the Holy Eucharist, which is a statement of communion with the Church.”
West added that “Catholics who publicly reject Church doctrine and are living in grave sin are called to repentance out of a pastoral concern for their souls, and a desire for their return to communion.”
An article in National Catholic Reporter discusses the book Pope Francis co-authored with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires.
In On Heaven and Earth, Skorka addresses the turbulent period prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Argentina in 2010. Stating that the issue was not treated with the profoundness it deserved, Skorka said:
There are already many same-sex couples who live together who deserve a legal solution to questions of pension, inheritance, etc., that might fit into a new legal model, but to equate the homosexual couple to a heterosexual couple is something else.
Then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio responded that to serve its people, religion has the right to its say over topics in private and public life, and agreed with Skorka that, in natural law and the Bible, marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman.
Bergoglio described gay marriage as an “anthropological setback” because it weakens an “ancient institution that was forged according to nature and anthropology.”
According to Catholic News Agency, during the debate on homosexual marriage in Argentina in July of 2010, then-Cardinal Bergoglio wrote, in a letter to the Carmelite nuns of Buenos Aires: