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I see that Pope Francis is in hot water again: first they didn’t like his encyclical on our common home, the earth; then they did not like his encyclical on us all being brothers (and sisters); and now, depending on which mistranslation (or not) you choose to believe, they don’t like his comments on civil unions, or is it civil coexistence? The “they” in question are the super-Catholics on social media who can, literally answer the rhetorical question: ‘Is the Pope a Catholic?’ with the answer ‘no’!

Now, I ought to admit I have what the English call ‘form’ on this. A few years back when I admitted that, after some thinking about it, I had decided to attend the wedding of a lesbian friend, there were some here who thought that was a bad thing to have done. For me it was an expression of friendship. It may be a generational thing. I don’t know how many people in their sixties and over have friends who are gay or lesbian, but for people my age (“thirty erm something …”) it’s not uncommon, and Abi happened to have been a friend since childhood. I think this was the sort of thing the Pope may have been talking about. It’s not necessarily about his approving gay marriage, I am sure he doesn’t because Roman Catholic doctrine forbids it, it’s probably more about how we react to our gay and lesbian friends in what the Pope calls ‘civil society.’

It’s a good question, and it’s good that he is raising it. Certainly where I used to work, and where my other half works, there are plenty of people who are gay, and it would be invidious, as the Catholic Church acknowledges, to subject them to any form of discrimination in everyday life. That’s separate from the fraught issue of gay marriage, and whilst gay people may feel offended by the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, they know what that teaching is, and just as with other sexual acts which are not ‘open to life’ they make a choice. I suspect if every man who had ever masturbated, fancied a woman not his wife and had sex without benefit of marriage, or without the intention of being “open to life” ceased going to Church, attendance would fall dramatically, and maybe it’s worth remembering that. The media goes on, as gay people tend to, about homosexuality as though the Church taught only about that, it’s teaching on the theology of the body goes much further and covers much more – but we hear little of that. But I lost sight of the last press report banging on about sex outside marriage or contraception. Motes and beams come to mind for some reason.

If the Pope was talking about how we treat each other in civil society, then his words are surely in line with Roman Catholic teaching? If they were what some hold them to have been, then that’s a matter for those in his Church. We Anglicans, after all, have our own problems on this one.

I totally “get” why some get het up on this theme, but gay people are not going to get back in the closet any time soon, nor are they going away, and nor are they all atheists or agnostic. In the long history of Christianity the length of time that gay and lesbian people have been able to be open about their sexuality without legal consequences is a short one, and the Church tends to have time scales rather more lengthy.

There have always been Christians who have been homosexual, the problem seems to be that some Christians were more comfortable when they were in the closet and are uncomfortable now they are out of it. But for Christians who are homosexual, there is a cross to be carried, and they want to be in the Church for who they are, not what their sexual preference is, and indeed, for many, their sexuality is very much a secondary issue, however much it seems to preoccupy some others.

After all, what are we really going to do in the modern world? Are we going to excluded all remarried and divorced people from the eucharist? Are we going to ostracise the money-lenders? Should we think again about stoning? Those lacking in sin, can, of course, be first to begin to lessen the pile of stones. For the rest of us, well we might just want to think about what Pope Francis is really saying, which seems to be that we are all human, all sinners, and that in terms of civil society, let’s not discriminate against people who want to have sex with people of their own gender. Naturally, since there would be zero clickbait headlines in any of that, the MSM prefer to big it up. I do wish they’d stop … but that, as they say, is another story. Enjoy your Saturday!