As it confronts perhaps the ultimate challenge to its credibility, the Catholic Church finds itself in full-fledged freefall.
Two American bishops publicly and strongly disagree about whether LGBTQ Catholics need to repent of their sexual behavior. One, the recently appointed cardinal of San Diego, argued for what he called “radical inclusion” without repentance. Another, a specialist in canon law, did more than disagree vigorously. He called his fellow prelate a heretic who should be relieved of his position.
Meanwhile, as his church burns, Pope Francis imitates that great Roman violinist, Nero.
San Diego Cardinal Robert McElroy, whom Francis promoted in August, called for “radical inclusion” of LGBTQ Catholics and removing “structures and cultures of exclusion” in a Jan. 24 article for America, the Jesuit magazine. Those “structures” include a doctrine demanding that anyone engaging in sexual sin becomes ineligible to receive Communion, which Catholics call the Eucharist, “without previous sacramental confession,” canon law states.
“The exclusion of men and women because of their marital status or their sexual orientation/activity is pre-eminently a pastoral question, not a doctrinal one,” wrote McElroy, who criticized “a theology of eucharistic coherence that multiplies barriers to the grace and gift of the eucharist. Unworthiness cannot be the prism of accompaniment for disciples of the God of grace and mercy.” (Emphasis in original)
For McElroy, neither repentance nor sexual behavior matters.
“The distinction between orientation and activity cannot be the principal focus,” he wrote, “because it inevitably suggests dividing the LBGT community into those who refrain from sexual activity and those who do not.”
In disregarding repentance for sexual sin, McElroy went even further.
“The effect of the tradition that all sexual acts outside of marriage constitute objectively grave sin has been to focus the Christian moral life disproportionately upon sexual activity,” he wrote. “The heart of Christian discipleship is a relationship with God the Father, Son, and Spirit rooted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The church has a hierarchy of truths that flow from this…Sexual activity, while profound, does not lie at the heart of this hierarchy.”
McElroy, in perhaps his most passionate rhetoric, apparently views anything other than blind acceptance as hate.
“It is a demonic mystery of the human soul why so many men and women have a profound and visceral animus toward members of the LGBT communities,” he wrote. “The church’s primary witness in the face of this bigotry must be one of embrace rather than distance or condemnation.”
Compare McElroy’s views with the Catholic catechism:
“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to natural law. … Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
In the Bible, Leviticus listed homosexuality among other sexual behaviors considered “detestable.” Jesus defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Paul, a former Pharisee, described homosexual acts as “shameful” and practicing homosexuals as unable to “inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. quoted the catechism in his rebuttal to McElroy, which appeared on Feb. 28 in First Things magazine. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently elected Paprocki as chairman of its Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance.
” … it is contrary to a ‘truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith’ to reject or condemn ‘a theology of eucharistic coherence that multiplies barriers to the grace and gift of the eucharist,’ as if no such barriers existed,” Paprocki wrote in quoting McElroy’s article. “They do exist, and they are a matter of divine revelation.”
Paprocki also quoted several sections of canon law in asserting that “a cardinal of the Catholic Church, like any other Catholic who denies settled Catholic teaching, embraces heresy, the result of which is automatic ex-communication from the Catholic Church,” he wrote.
Promoting heresy, Paprocki continued, would result in a cleric losing any offices, powers, and privileges, and could even mean being defrocked if the problem is serious or long-standing. But Paprocki added a pivotal stipulation.
“Only the pope can remove a cardinal from office or dismiss him from the clerical state in the case of heresy or other grave crimes,” he wrote. “If he does not do so, the unseemly prospect arises of a cardinal, excommunicated … due to heresy, voting in a papal conclave.”
So what will Francis do? Probably nothing, which reflects his passive strategy to promote the LGBTQ agenda.
As FrontPage Magazine reported in December, Francis uses his rhetoric to defend historic teaching. He even called gender theory “ideological colonization” and supported the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s decision in 2021 not to allow German bishops to bless same-sex unions.
But the pope’s actions reveal apathy toward, if not support for, homosexual behavior and activism.
As FrontPage Magazine reported in the same article, Francis’ appointments reflect his attitude. One is Cardinal Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the former president of the Pontifical Council on the Family. Before coming to Rome, Paglia commissioned and personally supervised work on a homoerotic painting for his cathedral. That painting featured a scene showing the semi-nude archbishop embracing a semi-nude male.
As president of the now-defunct Pontifical Council for the Family, Paglia in 2016 approved a sex-education program for teens that a Catholic psychiatrist called “the most dangerous threat to Catholic youth that I have seen over the past 40 years.”
Another appointment is the Rev. James Martin, America’s editor-at-large who serves as a communications advisor. Martin regularly uses his speaking engagements and media platforms to promote the LGBTQ agenda. For example, Martin told a gay man at Villanova University in 2017, “I hope in 10 years you will be able to kiss your partner (in church) or, you know, soon to be your husband. Why not? What’s the terrible thing?”
Two years later, Martin admitted on Twitter that the Bible “clearly condemns” homosexual sex. “The issue,” he continued, “is precisely whether the biblical judgment is correct.”
In 2021, Martin tweeted opposition to a pastoral letter condemning gender ideology from Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Va. In February 2022, Martin likewise responded to a legal opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who stated that prescribing hormone blockers and sex-change surgeries for children constituted child abuse under state law. That March, Martin opposed a proposed Idaho law banning similar procedures on children.
Not only has Francis yet to discipline Martin. The pope invited him to the Vatican in November to discuss “the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties, of LGBTQ Catholics,” Martin tweeted. The time was “indeed punctuated with smiles and laughter, and after which I indeed felt elated,” he added.
So Francis’ subtle sabotage benefits McElroy, one of his most important allies. As FrontPage Magazine also reported, McElroy stated in a voting guide for California’s 2020 primary that the pope’s positions on immigration and the environment mattered more than the church’s historic opposition to abortion and contraception.
Two-and-a-half years later, Francis made McElroy a cardinal.
The crisis holds serious implications beyond theology. As FrontPage Magazine’s Christine Williams reported, a student at a Catholic high school in Canada was suspended for insisting that only two sexes exist. That student, Josh Alexander, led a student walkout in November to support girls who opposed having transgender boys use their restrooms. Alexander and the girls tried to convince Principal Derek Lennox to intervene but Lennox did nothing.
St. Joseph’s Catholic High School suspended Alexander after the walkout. When Alexander tried to return once his suspension ended, the school had him arrested for trespassing.
Alexander, who calls himself a “born-again Christian,” tried to get support from a local priest, who refused to talk with him.
“I’m kind of shocked at how little response there has been from the church,” Alexander said on a podcast. “I even phoned one of the local churches the other day, and the pastor just told me he didn’t want to speak to me. I can’t imagine a leader of a church telling a 16-year-old kid he wouldn’t even have a discussion with him.”
But another priest reached the breaking point when Francis publicly advocated ending anti-sodomy laws in interviews surrounding his February trip to Africa and called upon bishops to lead that effort.
“It struck me that a lot of the Holy Father’s public comments revolve around this issue of homosexuality, as though that were the centerpiece of his ministry,” the Rev. Jason Charron said on video Feb. 8. “You don’t hear a whole lot of comments coming from him calling for the defense of persecuted Christians in, oh, I don’t know, places like China?”
Charron ended by posing a provocative question:
“Who do you belong to, Francis? Do you belong to Christ or do you belong to Sodom?”
BREAKING: Pope Francis showed his ultimate intent regarding the issue on March 7 by appointing Jesuit Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, archbishop of Luxembourg, to his circle of close advisors, the Council of Cardinals. Last year, Hollerich publicly rejected the church’s historic teaching on homosexuality in an interview with a German Catholic news service.
“I believe that this is wrong,” Hollerich said. “But I also believe that we are thinking ahead here in teaching. As the Pope has said in the past, this can lead to a doctrinal change. Because I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this doctrine is no longer correct. I believe that it is time for us to make a fundamental revision of doctrine.”