By Paul Tennant
---- — Local Catholics said Pope Francis’ conciliatory remarks about people with a homosexual orientation support the church’s teachings on sexual morality.
“It’s really nothing new,” said the Rev. Francis Mawn, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Lawrence and former pastor of St. James Church in Haverhill. The church teaches that gay people should be treated with respect and dignity, Mawn said.
When Pope Francis was asked recently about priests who are attracted to other men, he said, “We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society. If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
The pope was talking to reporters while on a plane headed back to Rome after attending World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. One of the reporters asked him about gay priests.
Mawn pointed out that Pope Francis did not call for changing the church’s teaching against homosexual activity. The Catholic Church forbids any sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. The church’s long-held stand is based on the Bible.
“As a practice, we let the pope’s words be the official comment,” Terrence Donilon, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, told The Eagle-Tribune. He mentioned Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s 2006 letter on homosexuality, in which the archbishop of Boston said the church should welcome Catholics who happen to be gay — but reiterated the teaching against homosexual practices.
“We do not want Catholics who have a homosexual orientation to feel unwelcomed in the Catholic Church,’’ O’Malley wrote in that letter. “We remind them that they are bound to us by their baptism and are called to live a life of holiness.”
The cardinal also wrote, “At the same time the church must minister to all people by challenging them to obey God’s commands, the roadmap for a meaningful human life that allows us to draw near to God and to one another. If we tell people that sex outside of marriage is not a sin, we are deceiving people. If they believe this untruth, a life of virtue becomes all but impossible. Jesus teaches that discipleship implies taking up the cross each day and following him with love and courage.”
“I think he’s doing fantastically,” Leo Hart, a parishioner at St. Matthew Parish in Windham, N.H., said of Pope Francis. “He’s showing a great connection to the poor and downtrodden.”
“I didn’t think he would be as forthcoming quite so soon,” said Judi Ryan, a member of Saints Mary and Joseph Parish in Salem, N.H. “I’m surprised and delighted. He’s starting to make some waves and I applaud him.”
Practicing Catholics don’t see the pope’s stance on gay priests as being inconsistent with church teachings. Traditional church values respect gay people, Hart said.
“The old church adage, ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner,’ is being played out by him,” Hart said of the pope.
Ken Dunne of St. Patrick Parish in Pelham, N.H., agreed.
“The Catholic Church doesn’t judge homosexuals,” he said. “It judges the homosexual act.”
Shirley Thomas of St. Jude Parish in Londonderry said the pope is being true to the Bible.
“According to the Bible, we’re not supposed to judge anybody,” Thomas said. “I can’t blame him for quoting from the Bible.”