Pope Francis was recently quoted, while aboard his papal flight back to Brazil, saying, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Did Pope Francis therefore mean that practicing homosexual sex is now considered by the Catholic faith as a morally acceptable and even morally good behavior? Probably not. Many in social media interpreted that Pope Francis was taking a new step that was inconsistent with traditional teaching of the Catholic faith. One observer stated, “A good change. The church is updating its policy to be consistent with modern science (again). Intolerance and oppression for being born different has historically led to suffering and destroyed lives.”
However, it is still noteworthy that in the same question and answer session before Pope boarded his flight, he referred to some sexual relations as “sin.” In the context, Pope Francis said, “And when someone sins and confesses, God not only forgives but forgets.” He was also recorded saying, “clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.” Of course Francis was not talking saying that in cases of sexual abuse on minors that we should “not judge.” In fact, Pope Francis stated, “We don’t have the right to not forget.”
Perhaps there is confusion about Pope Francis usage of “judging.” Pope Francis was probably merely asserting that he is not “judging” the inside of one’s heart that has repented, because after all only God knows their heart. (I Samuel 16:7).
The Pope realizes that ultimately God knows their heart. This seems consistent with historical Catholicism, which indicates that Christians are to make moral judgments, but not to judge a person’s ultimate salvation. We are to “judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24) Christianity also teaches that Christians need to show love to people of homosexual persuasion. Christians often work with practicing homosexuals, attend classes with some, or have them for neighbors. One of the great commands is to “love our neighbors.” The apostle Paul said, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
Most practicing homosexuals argue, “I was born this way…I have never been attracted to the opposite sex.” The Pope will affirm that because of sin entering the world at the fall, every human being is born with sinful urges. However, “sinful” desires can be restrained and even replaced with godly urges. A man might have a deep urge to pursue other women besides his wife, but he can control those passions. Having such attraction does not make this man a genetically determined adulterer. Pope Francis was quoted, saying, “I still haven't found anyone at the Vatican who has 'gay' on his business card.” Pope Francis will likely still believe that that though a boy may have homosexual interest, this does not mean he is a genetically determined homosexual; through grace he can resist those urges. Therefore, the Catholic Church will still likely indicate that homosexual practice is “sin.”
But, through the power of God, Pope Francis will still affirm that all sinners (including ourselves) can be transformed — thoughts, emotions, and innermost desires — into all that God prefers us to be.