Pope Francis has turned centuries of Catholic doctrine on its head by saying he would not condemn priests for harbouring homosexual desires.
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis asked in a remarkably open news conference as he returned from his tour of Brazil.
His statements marked a dramatic turnaround from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.
Francis was much more conciliatory, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten. His remarks came this afternoon on a plane journey back to the Vatican. The Pope was funny and candid.
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalised because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society,” he said, speaking in Italian.
“The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem,” he said.
He also surprised those present by answering all questions directly, even thanking one journalist who raised allegations reported in the media that one of his trusted monsignors was involved in a scandalous gay tryst. Francis said he investigated and found nothing to back up the allegations.
Door ‘closed’ on women priests
But even as the Pope was open about homosexuality, it was quite different when it came to women in church. Addressing the issue of women priests, the Pope said, “The Church has spoken and says 'no' ... that door is closed. ” It was the first time he had spoken in public on the subject. “We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity, there must be more,” he said. “But with regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says no. Pope John Paul said so with a formula that was definitive. That door is closed,” he said referring to a document by the late pontiff which said the ban was part of the infallible teaching of the Church.