Yesterday, Pope Francis said something mildly kind about celibate priests who are seeking God, asking, “Who am I to judge?” The statement itself wasn’t that groundbreaking, but there’s a possibility that this Pope is signaling that he just doesn’t care about this issue the way that previous Popes have. Perhaps, under Pope Francis, the long-running campaign of anti-gay hate coming from the Vatican will start to peter out. Only time will tell.

The Onion responded almost immediately:

onion Catholic Pundits In Damage Control Mode After Pope Says Something Halfway Nice

VATICAN CITY—Following Pope Francis’ tolerant remarks Sunday about homosexuals and the Catholic Church, Vatican officials reportedly went into crisis mode, announcing that the Pope’s thoughtful message of understanding was clearly taken out of context. “It is not the official stance of the Pope or the Catholic Church that all people of good will who seek the Lord, especially gay people, should be accepted by Christ,” a visibly nervous Vatican spokesman told reporters, adding that the Holy Father was clearly tired after his long trip to Brazil and never meant for his comments to sound caring or realistic. “Homosexuality is a disorder. And this in no way means that, going forward, the Catholic Church will be an open-minded, more sensible organization. I assure you we are just as prejudiced and backward today as we were yesterday. Thank you.”

And so on. I left out the last line, because as is so often the case, the last line is the funniest, so click over if you haven’t read it yet.

Satire, of course, is in the process of becoming reality on this one, as Catholic pundits are scrambling to assure everyone that they’re still bigots. For instance, here is Cardinal Timothy Dolan, one of the worst offenders in the attempts to cover up the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal, and one of the strongest opponents of marriage equality in New York, continuing his recent campaign of trying to be nicer to gays without actually changing any of his horrid teachings. He would like to explain that yes, the Pope’s tone may be nicer, but it’s still the same old gay-condemning Catholic Church:

He’s just so friendly with his underlying message that gay people who actually are true to themselves are living in sin.

Fox News also got their resident priest, Jonathan Morris, to chime in:

What Pope Francis really said, in response to a reporter’s question about homosexual priests who are living a celibate life was this: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Pope Francis simply and compassionately reiterated Biblical teaching. The Bible and the Catholic Church have never taught that it is a “sin” to be homosexual.  They teach it is a sin to have homosexual sex because it goes against the laws of God’s nature, specifically his plan for human sexuality.

When Pope Francis says “who am I to judge” he is saying—and I think we need to hear more of this from religious leaders—that active homosexuals deserve the same kindness, love, and mercy that all of us sinners would hope to receive from God and from others.

We don’t make judgments about anyone’s personal worth—God has already done that when he created us out of love.

Glad he made that clear.

Al Kresta of Ave Maria Radio believes the secular media is just twisting everything, and also trying to start a fight between Popes Francis and Benedict:

“This is yet another example of the mainstream media being utterly incompetent when reporting on matters of religion,” says Al Kresta, author of the new book, Dangers to the Faith: Recognizing Catholicism’s 21st Century Opponents and host of Ave Maria Radio’s “Kresta in the Afternoon.”

He says that any journalist worthy of the title need only reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church to understand the context of the Pope’s statement. “In fact,” says Kresta, “one need only to read the next sentence of Pope Francis’ comments: ‘The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers.’”

Instead of understanding the Church’s constant teaching, Kresta says the media used the Pope’s words as a shameful attempt to pit Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis against each other. “The Pope broke no new ground because Catholic teaching is, and always will be, that homosexual orientation is not in and of itself sinful.”

See? That Catholic Church has always been super nice to gays, and we’ve always been at war with Eastasia, right? Subtext, to make sure everybody still understands: if you’re gay and you fall in love and get married, you’re still living in sin. But the Catholic Church loves you!

And of course, Bill Donohue, the dude with a website who runs the Catholic League, would like to take an opportunity to again smear the gay community with the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal, because that’s what Bill Donohue does for a living:

One might logically conclude that the pope broke some new ground with his comments on gay priests. But he didn’t.

When asked about homosexual priests, Pope Francis said, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” He added that “The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation….”

Pope Benedict XVI, responding to the homosexual scandal in the Catholic Church (one more time—less than 5 percent of the cases of priestly sexual abuse involved pedophilia), did not make it impossible for gays to enter the priesthood; he simply made it more difficult for those who were practicing gays to enter. Pope Francis said nothing to contradict what his predecessor said. And by addressing the gay lobby, he was clearly speaking out against what the late Father Andrew Greeley called the “lavender mafia.”

About ten years ago, I was interviewed by David France for a book he was writing, Our Fathers, about gays in the Catholic Church. Here is a selection of what I said: “I don’t think most Catholics would care if their priest is gay or straight, to tell the truth. I think the issue for them is whether he can live up to his vow of celibacy. I’d take a chaste gay priest any day over a promiscuous straight one.”

Well that’s nice. As I said above, the Pope didn’t say anything groundbreaking, but the tone was markedly different. What’s notable here is the pundits rushing to make sure we all understand that the Catholic Church has not changed in substance on this issue. We can only hope that Pope Francis is truly as apathetic about this issue as I am beginning to suspect he is, as that will take the wind out of the sails of Dolan, Donohue, et al.

Just remember: it’s okay to be gay. You’re just not entitled to love or companionship.

Love,

The Catholic Church