Pope Francis released a paper titled Amoris Laetitia, or “The Joy of Love,” last Friday

Pope Francis recently reaffirmed that he doesn’t support gay marriage.

In an age where society’s attitudes are constantly evolving, traditional institutions such as the Catholic Church are struggling to keep up. Last Friday, Pope Francis published a highly-anticipated paper about Catholic values. Based on over two years of discussions among higher-ups in the Church, the document touches on various important family and social issues. In the lead-up to the publication, Vatican insiders released several small leaks indicating that a “more open” stance was likely to be outlined. Rumors swirled that Francis would take a more progressive stance on same-sex marriage, as well as make some exceptions toward the use of artificial birth control (perhaps in response to the Zika virus outbreak). However, these rumors turned out to be entirely false. If anything, the release of this paper only showcased the Catholic Church’s inability to evolve quickly enough.

Divorce? Understandable. Gay Marriage? Not On Our Watch.

In his writing, Pope Francis urged pastors to remember that family relationships are incredibly complex, and to exercise grace when dealing with divorce (which is a sin according to Catholic teaching). The paper also declared that people who remarry after divorce should be “more fully integrated” back into their communities of faith. As for gay marriage, however, Pope Francis went on to reaffirm that under no circumstances does the Catholic Church support marriage equality. Although he asserted that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, the pope made his position clear, stating that gay marriage is not even “remotely analogous to God’s plan”.

Attempting to Grow

gay colors catholic

Despite the hard-line stance taken on same-sex marriage, for the most part Pope Francis called for less judgment and more love. The Church recognizes that it must become more inclusive and accepting of contrasting viewpoints. Pope Francis specifically noted that “by thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth”. While conservatives appeared content with the overall message, liberals around the world voiced their disappointment that Pope Francis did not offer a more sweeping message of inclusion. Every organization needs strategies for growth – but is the Church doing enough to encourage new membership?

Keeping Up With the Times

Statistics show that fewer and fewer people are attending regular church services these days – and the pope’s tone indicates that the Vatican has taken notice. There are a variety of factors involved in declining church attendance, of course. However, many of the complaints volleyed at the Church center around it being stuck in the past and unwilling to compromise on its traditional values. No matter what side of the issue you fall on, it’s hard to deny that there are significant barriers to acceptance in the Catholic Church – and not everyone perceives these barriers to be morally fair. For example, both divorce and homosexuality are considered sins under traditional Catholic teaching. However, in his paper Pope Francis decided to make a significant concession to divorced people, while offering nothing to gay couples hoping to have their marriages recognized in the eyes of the Church.

Hard Questions

Such a message inspires tough questions for the Church, such as: how is a toxic heterosexual relationship that ends in divorce more “analogous to God’s plan” than a happy, long-term homosexual relationship? Procreation is certainly important, but its difficult to defend the notion that a broken home is better for society than a home built on a healthy relationship. And yet, the Church refuses to acknowledge this idea. It’s obviously a touchy subject, but history (and polling) indicates that same-sex marriage will only become more widely accepted as we move into the future. So, what do you think? Should the Catholic Church stick by its traditional values and risk being on the wrong side of history, or should it try to become more inclusive?



  1. Tom Jaynes says:

    Thank you for a well thought out and well presented article. It poses several questions that are the subject of universal discussion these days. The primary question being, as you stated, “how is a toxic heterosexual relationship that ends in divorce more ‘analogous to God’s plan’ than a happy, long-term relationship?”
    I view this from a stance than many will not understand, but I will take my chances. Membership in a faith community entails that its members follow certain mules established by that community. If at any time, a member feels in good conscience that the rules are not for them, they are free to leave. The community does have the right to ‘enforce’ its rules and regulations. To expect compliance with its beliefs is part of the package. So where can I find justification for any of this?
    St. Paul clearly told the churches where they should stand on this issue. When approached by the church in Corinth, seeking his advise on handling an incident of incest within its membership, the Corinthians also mentioned that there were a great number of people in Corinth whom had a sinful nature. They cited adulterers, idolaters, userers and gluttons. Being a new Christian body, they were uncertain about his to approach these situations. Paul’s response was quite clear. In I Corinthins 5:11-12, he said, “Who am I to judge those who are not within our body? Do we not judge those who are within? God will judge those who are not within. In the meantime, cast out the evil doers among you.”
    In other words, mind your own business. If your members are breaking the rules, get rid of them. Do not concern yourself with those who are not within your membership. Leave that to God.
    The Pope has taken an appropriate course for the members of his church, trying to strike a balance between historical authority and the thinking of a modern age. On one hand, you have those who say throw away the old rules and think new. On the other, no change is good change. Striking a sound balance is a most difficult task.
    It is widely known that in our nation today, there are increasing numbers of people who no longer acknowledge a religious affiliation with any church, not just Roman Catholic. Does this mean they no longer believe in God? I think not.
    The churches stopped condemning divorce as soon as the state’s approved no-fault divorce, no longer making adultery the only grounds for a split. Church goers must admit that it has been a long time since they heard a sermon divorce or on adultery. Just like the verse in Corinthians I just cited, it comes under the heading of a UPS. That stands for an unpopular pulpit subject. Pastors are too smart to preach on a certain sin when there are members in the pews who are guilty of committing that sin. After all, the collection plate needs refilling each week.
    Should the church, for the sake of fiscal strength, make accommodations for new thinking on a subject? Is it analogous to God’s plan? In answer, I quote St. Paul, and most recently Pope Francis. “Who am I to judge?”

    1. Rev Paul collins says:

      Tom you are so right

  2. Dane Millanta says:

    What an absolutely incredible response!
    It clearly points out the absolute need for progressive change.
    In my ministries I work primary at the coalface of clinical pastoral paliative care.
    Within this framework I deal with all but mainly with the scorned ,marginalsed & the judged.

    In this ministry my role as a pastoral minister is to be with & minister to all irrespective of color race ,creed sexuality, & sin.

    It is my humbling priveledge to be with people at the time of their life that precedes & includes death.
    It is in this space that I accept my own inequities & the faults of my own human condition.

    I concede that Gods love & mercy & equality is for all not just the chosen few.

    What is said in the pulpit should be consistant & reflective of the spoken word, not a mere reflection of it.

    In conclusion I concur that marriage is an international right.

    1. Tom Jaynes says:

      Thank you, Dane and bless you in the wonderful work you do.

  3. Tom Jaynes says:

    Just one additional thought. Perhaps the time has come for churches to get out of the civil marriage business. It is apparent that ne’er the train shall meet between religious and civil marriage. The USA is one of a handful of countries that give permission to clergy to act as agents of the state. I can think of only one country where that makes sense, that is the Vatican City State. There, the clergy are the state! Let the churches marry who they want and for whatever reason. It just will not be legally binding until a civil action is performed.
    Can we all be happy now?

    1. Rev paul says:

      I don’t agree as a minister I will not marry same sex couples

      1. Tom Jaynes says:

        And that is your choice. I believe all clergy who believe as you do should say that and refuse to certify state issued marriage licenses. What is the problem?

        1. Rev Paul collins says:

          The Bible says homosexualty is a sin

          1. Ciro says:

            I agree, man.
            One should not go outside strong christian lines, just for everyone’s fake approval.

          2. Pius X says:

            Yes it does. Rather plainly. Many around here in the ULC and other areas seem to forget that rather simple and important point. If they do not confess of their blasphemies against God and seek treatment for their disorder, then Hell awaits. It really is just that simple.

  4. Ciro says:

    You wrote “showcased the Catholic Church’s inability to evolve quickly enough”, but I say…
    Who told you that this would be “evolution”? You really think you can decide this?
    No, it has to be that way, one should be responsible and not pretend to force something like this.

  5. retired at a young age from Catholicism says:

    Papa Frankie knows that there are two wings in the Catholic Church: those on the left who favor allowing marriage for priests and female priests; those on the right who want to maintain traditional values from the middle ages. Not wanting to alienate either group and desiring to keep as many Catholics as he can in both groups, he periodically makes comments that appeal to one side or the other. Likewise he occasionally speaks about a path to communion for divorced Catholics. He knows that many divorced Catholics have money and if he can offer them reunion to the church then he would increase his money and power (more members in the church).

    A few months ago while in USA he spoke to the US congress and also to the United Nations. He said that he sees Jesus in the socio-economic class of the lowest of the low. Yet while in USA he never asked any gay mens chorus to sing for him; he never visited any AIDS hospice nor any social service agency providing assistance to gay people in need. He found time to meet Kim Davis who denied marriage licenses to gay couples in Kentucky.

    Surely the pope knows that there are Muslim countries where one gay act can result in the death penalty. When he spoke to the United Nations, he could have, but did not, state that killing gay people for being who they are is immoral. The pope remained silent on that issue. I think that if he had taken a stand that it is wrong to kill gay people for being gay, then the news media would have reported that. The pope says that he wants respect for the lowest of the low but exactly how low will he go? Obviously not low enough to include gay people. He statement that gay people are deserving of respect is so vague that it is meaningless.

    1. gsl2727 says:

      Well put! Funny how they cannot accept LGBT persons but they have no problem reinstating a priest convicted of raping children in Minnesota and send him on to India. Wasn’t that immoral nonsense suppose to stop?

  6. Roland Michael Paul Tucker says:

    Folks, I would certainly appreciate referring to the Pope as Francis. We are all in our own ministry, but irreverence toward another faith or person is disrespectful and discredits ourselves and our own ministry.

    1. Rev paul says:

      I agree

    2. retired at a young age from Catholicism says:

      His holiness, the infallible Pope Francis I, chose to remain silent (in October 2015 when speaking to the United Nations) on the issue of the execution of gay men for a single homosexual act in some Muslim countries. I am surprised that your only comment is my unfortunate error in not referring to the pope by his correct name. Is this a worse sin than his implicit condoning of the killing of gay men for being who they are?

  7. Tom Jaynes says:

    There are about 40,000 recognized Christian denominations on the earth today. This, to me, is not a testament to the great spread of Christianity as it is an indictment of the fact that they all think they have the inside track on a God. They truly have difficulty focusing on the meaning of “love one another”. Potential members have plenty of organizations to choose from that will closely reflect their own personal religious beliefs. Perhaps, they all reflect the idea that the “kingdom of God is within” and are all persuing their own paths. Churches and their members have far more important things to concern themselves with than who loves who or who marries who.

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