Issues dividing the Church

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

Pope Francis made the news some time ago when he announced that LGBTQ people should be welcomed in the Roman Catholic Church and even allowed priests to bless same-sex couples. 

It was therefore a surprise to many people, including those who admire the pope for his progressive views, to read that the pontiff used an anti-gay slur during a meeting with priests in Rome. There was news that the pope used the same offensive term two weeks later. 

Two of the most prominent news agencies in Italy had used an offensive Italian slang term referring to gay men. 

According to a newspaper, the pope was reported as saying: “There is too much ‘frociaggine’ here in the Vatican.” The pontiff had been taking questions from a meeting of bishops when someone asked whether it was acceptable to admit openly gay men into seminaries. The Italian newspaper reported that Pope Francis answered “No” and used the slur word in describing what he considered as an excess of gay men in the seminaries for priests.

Later, the pope apologized through the director of the press office who said: “The pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms and he extends his apologies to those who were offended by the use of a term, reported by others.”

An analysis of the press statement shows that while the pope apologized for the use of the homophobic term, he did not withdraw his statement that he believed that there was an excess of gay men at seminaries. In fact, the Vatican News, the online news site of the Vatican, wrote that the pope “spoke about the danger of ideologies in the Church” and said that while the Church should welcome people with “homosexual tendencies,” it should exercise prudence in admitting them in seminaries.

The backlash against the pope’s statement was especially widespread in Europe where same-sex marriage and the LGBTQ community have become widely accepted. 

But even within the Catholic Church, the pope’s remarks have become controversial. A gay priest wrote in America Magazine, the Jesuit publication, that he was shocked and saddened by the remarks and added, “We need more than an apology for Pope Francis’ homophobic slur.”

This controversy is a surprise to many people who have considered Pope Francis as a progressive, liberal pope. In fact, it is the conservative wing of the Catholic Church that has often disagreed with the views of Pope Francis. 

There are many issues dividing the Catholic Church today so this division is not new.  Perhaps the writer Brent Bozell traced the root cause of this division when he posed the question back in 1967: “Should the Church endeavor to give the world a Christian shape or try to shape Christianity to the world?”

Bozell wants a traditionalist Catholic intellectual. But his question still divides the Church today. “Is the purpose of the Church to convince men of its relevance to the world or to acquaint and convince men of a reality that transcends and escapes the world?... Is Catholic education to be judged by its capacity to do for Catholics what secular schools do for non-Catholics; or by its capacity to endow students with Christianity’s superior insights to truth and to the meaning of life? Must the Church adjust herself to science and technology; or is her responsibility to instruct these minor disciplines in their subordinate role in the economy of salvation?”

This issue of how the Church should adjust to the modern world has remained unresolved even within the Church. However, this has become more relevant as the world increasingly faces a future that will be dominated by artificial intelligence or AI which will be the source of many controversial issues. Father Andrew Greely, a Catholic theologian, asked the relevant question of whether being in the world, the Church ought to transform it or, on the other hand, ought to allow itself to be transformed according to the norms of the world.

Recently, I was watching a discussion on same-sex marriage on an international news channel. The moderator said he believed that same-sex marriage was being legalized in many countries because public opinion had changed in the last couple of decades. It seemed to me that the moderator believed that public opinion would be the final determinant of the morality or immorality of any act. 

The Church today is confronted by many issues – abortion, the role of women, papal infallibility, homosexuality, among others. 

Personally I cannot fully accept that the sole measure of whether an act is moral or immoral is decided by public opinion. I also see the point of those who say that the Church must remain relevant to changing times. I feel that during these revolutionary times, it has become more urgent that the pope continues his role as the representative of Christ Himself in this world.

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Write Things is honored to have these guest authors engage our students in a writing session at Writefest 2024, a hybrid creative writing workshop for kids and teens on June 24, 26, 28, July 1, 3, 5 (MWF, 3-5 pm) in Fully Booked BGC and via Zoom. They are poet and novelist Joel Donato Ching Jacob aka Cupkeyk, a  Scholastic Asian Book Award winner and poet and novelist Dawn Lanuza. For more info: [email protected].

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