On that occasion [2013 interview on Rio-Rome flight] I said this — ‘If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?’ — I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized. … And people should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: let us not forget that God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love. . . I prefer that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together.— Pope Francis, The Name of God Is Mercy
WHAT would Pope Francis say about boxing champ Manny Pacquiao’s quoted remarks about homosexuals?
Before speaking one syllable, the Holy Father should first get the full remarks, not just the bit excerpted by mass and social media. Here’s what Pacquiao actually said when asked about same-sex marriage (writer’s translation of transcript from http://www.bugrant.xyz/2016/02/unedited-video-and-full-transcript-of-pacquiao-interview.html ):
“As Christian, same-sex marriage is forbidden. Woman was made for man; man was made for woman. This is just my view: It’s only common sense. Do you see male animals with male animals, or female with female? Animals are better, knowing how to recognize [gender]. Now, if men are with men, or women with women, human beings are worse than animals, isn’t it? A man really cannot marry another man.
“But I’m not condemning them [homosexuals]. Just [same-sex] marriage. Committing sin against God. But if two of the same sex love each other, there’s no problem there. What’s important is being good people and just living a simple life. But just don’t get married. They just show they love each other. It’s enough to live together, but for people of the same sex to marry, that shouldn’t be, because that’s against the law of God.”
Amid the ensuing outcry, Pacquiao posted on his Facebook account: “I’m sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I’ve hurt. I still stand on my belief that I’m against same sex marriage because of what the Bible says, but I’m not condemning LGBT [lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders]. I love you all with the love of the Lord. God Bless you all and I’m praying for you.”
Francis the merciful
So what would Pope Francis say to that? For starters, as one who preaches mercy for the repentant, Pope Francis cannot but look positively on Pacquiao’s avowed apology, love and prayers for people he offended.
Secondly, given the Holy Father’s compassionate words for people in relationships forbidden by the Catholic Church, he may counsel the eight-division champion that moral admonition — one of seven spiritual works of mercy taught by the Church — is best done without unnecessarily offending those being admonished and provoking them to stop listening.
As for Pacquiao’s moral thinking, Francis could very well agree with the boxer that Christian morality forbids homosexual acts, based on verses in the Old and the New Testaments, as well as edicts by past pontiffs and Church councils.
Thus, while preaching mercy, the Pope does say in the quote from his new book, The Face of God Is Mercy: “I prefer that homosexuals come to confession.” That means acknowledging and atoning for offenses, asking God’s forgiveness, and resolving to avoid such acts in future.
What about the bit about animals? Is that in accord with Catholic doctrine? Francis probably won’t go there, to avoid further upseting LGBTs. More to the point, what determines morality is God’s will as revealed in inspired Scripture and teachings, not animal behavior.
Sexuality must serve God
Sex with different partners, for instance, is done by many creatures, but the Church forbids it. Indeed, Christian teaching eschews merely giving in to physical drives, and requires fasting from food and other normal amenities as a Lenten sacrifice.
So comparing homosexuality with animal heterosexuality is irrelevant to morals. Instead, the key precept is faith, hope and love toward God, sexuality’s place in this paramount relationship, and the precepts He has conveyed through the Bible and other material inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Even outside Scripture, there are good reasons for strictures on sex. First, through intercourse man participates in creating human persons in the divine image with eternal souls. Surely, such an act of God and man should not be used for mere self-gratification and against His edicts.
Sex also stirs an intense drive and experience which can consume one’s thoughts and feelings to the point of drawing one away from God. And also provoking destructive acts, from King David’s plot to have his concubine’s husband killed, to countless rapes, jealous violence, abuse of the young, and today’s explosion in human trafficking, bondage and cyberporn.
Finally, the Holy Family ideal of husband and wife raising offspring in love, remains valid, doing much good for society and the couples living by it despite all the difficulties.
Now, many Christians deviate from and even disagree with Church teachings on sex, as they do with other commandments. Under Francis, the Church has sought to avoid harsh words and thus encourage those violating ethical teachings to seek forgiveness for sin and grace for reform.
For his part, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, one of the leading theologians of our time, warns against reducing Christianity to mere moralism, where following do’s and don’ts supplants the building of a loving, trusting and forgiving relationship with God (go to http://www.stlukeproductions.com/benedictus and listen to February 25 reflection).
So is Pacquiao wrong in his remarks? To paraphrase Pope Francis, if the sportsman-legislator sincerely shared what he believed are holy edicts, who are we to judge? We can only pray that by God’s intervention, the candidate’s words has somehow made people, even those attacking him, more mindful of the Lord’s will, mercy and grace for their bodies and souls.