Papal Theologian on Gay Identity

I have a new essay up at First Things about the interview embedded below.  Below you can find a transcript I made of the pertinent sections of the interview.

There is a longstanding tradition in the Holy See, from the Middle Ages, that there is a Dominican within the Papal Court, or within the Holy See, with the task and the office of the Papal Theologian.  It used to be known as the Master of the Sacred Palace.  And the most important mission that I have here is that all the speeches which are written for the Pope, before the Pope receives them, they have to be checked and within the procedure of the speechwriting, the Papal Theologian has to ensure that the text is acceptable.  And then of course the Holy Father is free to ad. lib., to add, to change, to drop, but nevertheless the idea is that what he’s given, what is prepared for him, is also theologically correct, and so that’s the reason why I live here in the Apostolic Palace.  And my mission is basically that.  Of course there are other things which I am doing as well, but that is the fundamental reason.


This is not an issue which is reacting against the Church’s teaching.  This is a fundamental anthropological change.  This is a distortion of humanity which is being proposed as an ideology which is being supported, financed, promoted, by those who are powerful in the world in many, many countries simultaneously.  The church is the only institution in the world which has the courage to stand up to this ideology.  I’ve seen the Communist ideology which seemed to be so powerful and is gone.  Ideologies come and go, and they have the idea of changing humanity, of changing human nature. Human nature cannot be changed, it can be distorted.   But the elevation of perversion to the level of a fundamental value that has to be nurtured and nourished and promoted, this is absolutely sick.

Now, what we are observing in many countries world-wide, certainly in the 20th and 21st century, there is an enormous extension of the responsibility of states.  Now the more the state is encroaching on the economy, on family life, on education, the state is saying that only the state has the monopoly to decide about these things, the more the state is omnipotent, the more the ethical standards are lowered, because it’s impossible to promote high ethical standards by the state.  The Church may promote high ethical standards because the Church has the grace of Christ, has the Living Word of God.  The State lowers the ethical level to the level of the approval of sinful acts, of perversion, of a distortion of humanity.

Now we began talking about contraception and homosexuality is tied to it, because contraception destroys the quality of relationships amongst the spouses and it generates sexual license outside marriage, and it reduces sexuality to an easy source of pleasure with no responsibility.  That pleasure without responsibility, without love, is never satisfied.  And it generates–like a drug–it generates a hunger for even more pleasure, which is even more not truly satisfying, not giving ultimate happiness, and so then there is a search for more perverted types of sexual pleasure which can never fulfill the human person, so homosexuality is a distortion.

Now, of course, many people fall into this trap for various reasons, and not necessarily for a fault of their own.  There are people who are emotionally fragile, because they come from broken families, because contraception and abortion has destroyed families, has generated divorces, people who are born and unloved, and not formed well—notice, they are emotionally fragile, and they easily fall prey to sexual deviations.  And it’s not a question of assessing their culpability—sometimes maybe they’re not culpable, they’ve been drawn into it—so certainly, I mean we can say that the percentage of people who have this problem is greater maybe now than in the past.  And of course they have to be treated with dignity—everybody has to be treated with dignity, even sinners have to be treated with dignity.  But the best way of treating people with dignity is to tell them the truth, and if we escape from the truth, we are not treating them with dignity.  And so homosexuality is against human nature.

So certainly people with the homosexual difficulty have to be respected, and of course there are various stages of the distortion of the sexuality in the homosexual orientation.  There is the emotional attraction, and the genital activity, and not every person who has this difficulty, or who is passing through a stage, which is not necessarily permanent, not every person will always be with that difficulty, so the important thing is to help such people find themselves to return to an emotional and moral integrity.

But of course, they need to be respected and in the American language you have a distinction between the word ‘homosexual’ and ‘gay’. A homosexual is a person who has, to some extent, this homosexual condition. And somebody may have this difficulty, and his friends, his neighbors will not know about this. He’s dealing with this in cooperation with the grace of God and may come out of this difficulty and come back to normal human relationships. Sometimes adolescents, in the moment when their sexual sensibility is appearing, and if they have been distorted by others they go through a phase of difficulty in this field. But as they mature they will grow out of it. Whereas a “gay” is somebody who says, “I am like this, I will be like this, I want to be treated like this, and I want special privileges because I am like this.” Now if somebody is not only homosexual, but a gay, declaring, “This is how I am, and I want this to be respected legally, socially and so on,” such a person will never come out of the difficulty.

The important thing is, when somebody has a homosexual tendency, is to tell such an individual, this is not everything that you are.  There are many other qualities in you which are good.  You may be an artist, you may be a writer, you may be good in your work, you may be a sportsman, you are charitable, there are many aspects of your being.  Whereas a “gay,” focuses on this condition, and makes out of it the supreme sacrament, the supreme justification, the supreme expression of the identity of the individual.  Well, once that is elevated and is treated as the supreme, the most important bit of information that we have about the individual, such an individual will never free himself from this perverted state, and he will never be happy.   And homosexual activity of “gays,” who [are] affirming their identity doesn’t lead to permanent relationships, doesn’t lead to the transmission of life.  This is a distortion.

And so the Church standing up to this ideology which we are seeing now, certainly in the western world, the Church is saying something very normal and humane which corresponds to the understanding of humanity which humanity has had for millennia, long before Christ.  Long, even before the appearance of Christianity, so it’s not a question of the Church fighting the ideology, it’s a question of the distortion of humanity and the Church standing up in defense of human dignity.  And because the Church is focused on Christ, and in Christ the divinity and humanity are tied in one person with two natures, so in Christ we are seeing the human nature on its supreme level as it is elevated and glorified from within by the divinity, and so by focusing on Christ, we have the supreme answer about anthropology, about pedagogy, about psychology, about morals.  Christ shows us a humanity which is supremely transformed from within, by the divinity.  Now we have access to the grace of God, through our faith, through the sacraments, and by living out the grace of God, that grace of God heals whatever distortions we may have, whatever difficulties we may have, on the condition that we initiate, we commence the pilgrimage, we start the journey of living out our lives with the grace of God.


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