Pope Francis gave a memorable press conference yesterday on the airplane which brought him back from Brazil to Rome. Speaking to journalists for about 80 minutes, Francis was startlingly candid on many issues, but his remarks on homosexuality, priests with homosexual tendencies, and a "gay lobby" in the Vatican, raised the most eyebrows.
When these comments were reported in various secular newspapers, an explanation of the surrounding context of the question the Pope was answering was omitted. Below is an email sent out on behalf of the Vatican Press Office by Father Tom Rosica, of the Salt and Light Television Network of Toronto, Canada, which gives the full text of this portion of the Pope's remarks.
Here is the email circulated by Father Rosica:
RIO DE JANEIRO
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
In response to many messages and calls earlier today regarding Pope Francis' meeting with journalists aboard the return flight to Rome from Rio de Janeiro last night, I have received the full working transcript of his remarks from Fr. Lombardi.
Since most of your questions relate to his response to the question about Monsignor Ricca and the gay lobby, I have done a working translation of the question and the full answer of the Pope.
I have also included the original Italian transcription and the full paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on homosexuality to which the Pope referred.
The powerful and deeply moving visit of Pope Francis to Brazil last week left a deep and lasting impression upon this country as well as on the continent and the entire world. We encountered in the Bishop of Rome a shepherd "who knows the odor of his sheep," a bearer of hope and peace, and an extraordinary pastoral model of tenderness and mercy.
He stressed the necessity of mercy throughout his visit, and reached out to so many people on the peripheries of society.
This was especially evident through his visit to the favela, the hospital and drug rehabilitation centre for young people, the meeting with young prisoners, the concern for the sick, and for young people who are broken.
He also showed how much he stands in solidarity with those living in extreme poverty and struggling for justice and peace.
His comments on the plane, particularly about the divorced and remarried, women, and homosexuals must be read and understood through the lenses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the outreach and concern of the Church for those on the fringes, and the mercy, tenderness and forgiveness of a pastor who walks among his people.
The Question to Pope Francis from Ilse, a journalist on the Papal flight
Ilse: 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
[Pope Francis's response:] 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 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!
Original transcript in Italian
(Ilse) Vorrei chiedere il permesso di fare una domanda un po’ delicata: anche un’altra immagine ha girato un po’ il mondo, che è stata quella di mons. Ricca e delle notizie sulla sua intimità. Vorrei sapere, Santità, cosa intende fare su questa questione? Come affrontare questa questione e come Sua Santità intende affrontare tutta la questione della lobby gay?
(Papa Francesco): Quello di mons. Ricca: ho fatto quello che il Diritto Canonico manda a fare, che è la investigatio previa. E da questa investigatio non c’è niente di quello di cui l’accusano, non abbiamo trovato niente di quello. Quella è la risposta. Ma io vorrei aggiungere un’altra cosa su questo: io vedo che tante volte nella Chiesa, al di fuori di questo caso ed anche in questo caso, si va a cercare i “peccati di gioventù”, per esempio, no?, e questo si pubblica. Non i delitti, eh? I delitti sono un’altra cosa: l’abuso sui minori è un delitto. No, i peccati. Ma se una persona, laica o prete o suora, ha fatto un peccato e poi si è convertito, il Signore perdona e quando il Signore perdona, il Signore dimentica e questo per la nostra vita è importante. Quando noi andiamo a confessarci e diciamo davvero “Ho peccato in questo”, il Signore dimentica e noi non abbiamo il diritto di non dimenticare, perché abbiamo il rischio che il Signore non si dimentichi dei nostri [peccati] eh? E’ un pericolo quello. Quello è importante: una teologia del peccato. Tante volte penso a San Pietro: ha fatto uno dei peggiori peccati, che è rinnegare Cristo, e con questo peccato lo hanno fatto Papa. Dobbiamo pensare tanto.
Ma tornando alla Sua domanda più concreta: in questo caso, ho fatto l’ivestigatio previa e non abbiamo trovato. Questo è la prima domanda. Poi, Lei parlava della lobby gay: mah… si scrive tanto della lobby gay. Io ancora non ho trovato mi dia la cartella d’identità in Vaticano con “gay”. Dicono che ce ne sono. Credo che quando uno si trova con una persona così, deve distinguere il fatto di essere una persona gay dal fatto di fare una lobby, perché le lobby tutte non sono buone. Quello è il cattivo. Se una persona è gay e cerca il Signore e ha buona volontà, ma chi sono io per giudicarla? Il catechismo della Chiesa cattolica spiega tanto bello questo, ma dice, Aspetta un po’, come si dice…e dice “non si devono emarginare queste persone per questo, devono essere integrate in società”. Il problema non è avere questa tendenza, no: dobbiamo essere fratelli, perché questo è uno, ma se c’è un altro, un altro, il problema è fare lobby di questa tendenza o lobby di avari, lobby di politici, lobby dei massoni, tante lobby. Questo è il problema più grave per me. E La ringrazio tanto per aver fatto questa domanda. Grazie tante!
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
On behalf of Fr. Federico Lombardi and the Holy See Press Office, thank you for your continued interest and collaboration. —Father Tom Rosica
Below is a link to the complete audio file of the press conference with the Pope: