Pope Francis is offered up strong criticism against America’s conservative bishops for their attacks against President Joe Biden, a devout Catholic, over his stance on abortion. The Roman Catholic Church opposes abortion, among many other acts, but U.S. bishops have singled out Biden’s pro-choice policy and are moving to refuse him the holy sacraments, such as communion, as punishment for it.
“What must the pastor do?” Francis, The New York Times reports, said when a reporter asked him about President Biden and abortion. “Be a pastor, don’t go condemning. Be a pastor, because he is a pastor also for the excommunicated.”
While President Biden, only the nation’s second Catholic to be elected president, personally opposes abortion, he strongly supports a woman’s right to choose and does not believe it is the government’s right to interfere in that personal and constitutionally-protected decision.
“I have never refused the eucharist to anyone,” Pope Francis also told reporters.
The Times adds, “Bishops should be pastors, he said, not politicians.”
Back in June the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) overwhelmingly voted to move toward chastising President Biden for his abortion stance, despite the Vatican issuing a clear warning they were not to do so.
“Some leading bishops, whose priorities clearly aligned with former President Donald J. Trump, now want to reassert the centrality of opposition to abortion in the Catholic faith and lay down a hard line — especially with a liberal Catholic in the Oval Office,” The New York Times reported in mid-June.
“If we look at the history of the church, we will see that every time the bishops have not managed a problem as pastors, they have taken a political stance on a political problem,” the Pope told reporters on Wednesday while on a plane returning to Rome.
The Pope also told reporters, “communion is not a prize for the perfect,” and “the eucharist is not the reward of saints but the bread of sinners.”
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Watch: Pope Francis Says Homosexuality Is ‘A Sin’ But Not ‘A Crime’
Pope Francis, whose tenure has been marked by a kinder and gentler approach than his predecessor, reiterated Catholic church doctrine that homosexuality is a “sin” but not a “crime,” urged local bishops to welcome LGBTQ people into the church, and called for an end to anti-LGBTQ laws and discrimination.
“Being homosexual is not a crime. It’s not a crime,” the Pope told The Associated Press in an interview released Wednesday morning (video below). “Yes, it’s a sin. Well, yes, but let’s make the distinction first between sin and crime.”
The Pope urged anti-LGBTQ bishops to change so they recognize everyone’s “dignity,” the AP reported.
“These bishops have to have a process of conversion,” Pope Francis said, calling for “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”
Francis also said the Catholic Church, which he heads, should work to end laws that criminalize homosexuality.
“It must do this. It must do this,” he said.
The AP adds that “Francis quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church in saying gay people must be welcomed and respected, and should not be marginalized or discriminated against.”
“We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity,” Francis said.
While some of Pope Francis’ remarks are not new, some, including Jesuit Priest James Martin, SJ, editor at large for America Magazine, pointing to the decriminalization portion, called them an “immense step forward.”
“In some 70 countries, homosexual relations are still a crime,” Martin notes. “in a few countries, a person can be executed for being gay. This is a historic step forward for the church, and the Pope’s clear statement today will help to lessen violence against LGBTQ people and save lives.”
As NCRM has previously reported, Pope Francis continues to oppose marriage for same-sex couples. He has a lengthy record of vacillating between making compassionate statements about same-sex couples and gay people, while denouncing in the strongest possible terms affording them the same rights and responsibilities as those in different-sex marriages. He has also taken a strong stance against transgender people.
“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” he said two years ago, in remarks that were seen as highly-confrontational by conservatives. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”
His remarks were part of a call he made saying he supported civil unions for same-sex couples, comments the Vatican was quick to claim were taken out of context, and stressed did not alter church doctrine.
The Vatican not only quickly walked his statement back, it insisted that LGBTQ people having a “right to a family” only meant acceptance by their own families – not a right to form families, and not a right to marriage.
In 2014, Pope Francis called same-sex marriage “anthropological regression.”
One year later he said same-sex marriage threatened to “disfigure God’s plan.” He later called marriages of same-sex couples “disfigured.” Also in 2015 he announced support for constitutional bans on marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.
But the following year Francis said the Catholic Church and Christians “must ask forgiveness” and “apologize” to gay people. In 2018 the Pope reportedly told a gay man, “God made you like this. God loves you like this. The Pope loves you like this and you should love yourself and not worry about what people say.”
Also in 2016 Francis called transgender people an “annihilation of man as the image of God.” That same year he said teaching children about transgender people is “indoctrination” and “ideological colonization.”
Watch the Pope’s remarks below or at this link.
Pope Francis criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all his children just as they are. The pontiff called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church. #TheAPInterview https://t.co/bNIKm0dg9X pic.twitter.com/V76gScc3RR
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 25, 2023
Freedom of Speech?: Supreme Court Rules Anti-LGBTQ Group Should Have Been Allowed to Fly Christian Flag at City Hall
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed down a stunning unanimous decision, finding that Boston violated the First Amendment free speech rights of an anti-LGBTQ group that had requested the city fly a Christian flag at city hall. That group, Camp Constitution, says part of its mission is to “expose some of the abuses and perversions that have brought our nation and economy so far down.”
Like the Supreme Court’s very narrow decision in the Masterpiece Cake Shop case, the ruling, which is very specific, runs the risk of being used by the right to initiate more religion-based attacks against minority Americans.
The decision, written by retiring justice Stephen Breyer, disturbingly also cites Boston allowing the LGBTQ Pride flag to fly in front of its city hall as an example of how the city granted many other groups’ requests but engaged in discrimination against the Christian group.
“Between 2005 and 2017,” the decision reads, “Boston approved the raising of about 50 unique flags for 284 such ceremonies. Most of these flags were other countries’, but some were associated with groups or causes, such as the Pride Flag, a banner honoring emergency medical service workers, and others.”
The ruling favored Camp Constitution not on the grounds of religious liberty (although other justices wrote concurring opinions that pointed to religion) but on free speech grounds. In short, the ruling states that because the city regularly allowed many other groups to fly various flags, denying one group that “right” violated its freedom of speech.
“Boston’s flag-raising program was aimed at promoting diversity and tolerance among the city’s different communities,” Reuters reports. “In turning down Camp Constitution, Boston had said that raising the cross flag could appear to violate another part of the First Amendment that bars governmental endorsement of a particular religion.”
Reuters adds that the current Supreme Court, with a 6-3 right-wing majority, “has taken an expansive view of religious rights and has been increasingly receptive to arguments that governments are acting with hostility toward religion.”
Justice Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion, which Justice Thomas joined. Justice Alito and Justice Kavanaugh also wrote separate concurring opinions, both of which essentially telegraph how they want to reshape the country’s understanding of the First Amendment to favor religion.
Kavanaugh wrote that “a government violates the Constitution when (as here) it excludes religious persons, organizations, or speech because of religion from public programs, benefits, facilities, and the like.”
Conservative Justice Alito, citing various other cases, wrote that “excluding religious messages from public forums that are open to other viewpoints is a ‘denial of the right of free speech’ indicating ‘hostility to religion’ that would ‘undermine the very neutrality the Establishment Clause requires.'”
The ruling overturns lower court rulings against Camp Constitution.
The case, Shurtleff v. Boston, was brought by Camp Constitution’s Hal Shurtleff. The attorneys who filed it were from the anti-LGBTQ hate group Liberty Counsel.
Here’s one of Shurtleff’s recent tweets:
Is the ‘Gay Manifesto” Now U.S. Public Policy? https://t.co/KfkHYSIGqr
— Hal Shurtleff (@Freedominboston) April 1, 2022
It links to a post that wrongly takes a well-known satirical opinion piece from the 1980’s and claims it as an actual “manifesto” of the LGBTQ community.
Former U.S. Attorney Barb McQuade, a well-known law professor and MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst says the Supreme Court is “further blurring the line between church and state.”
MSNBC’s Pete Williams:
Vatican: It’s ‘Morally Acceptable’ to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine Derived from Aborted Fetuses
The Vatican released a statement Monday that said it’s “morally acceptable” to receive a vaccination for COVID-19, even if the vaccine’s research or production involved using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses. They cited the “grave danger” of the pandemic as their reasoning behind the controversial move.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office charged with promoting and defending church morals and traditions, released a heavily cited document that stated, in part: “when ethically irreproachable COVID-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”
Anyone objecting to the vaccine due to its nature and their religion may do so, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted these entities must “do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent.”
The Vatican News reported that Pope Francis approved the text on Thursday.
“In such a case, all vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive,” the report said.
“In view of the gravity of the current pandemic and the lack of availability of alternative vaccines, the reasons to accept the new COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are sufficiently serious to justify their use,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in their own statement last week.
The U.S. conference said that receiving one of the vaccines “ought to be understood as an act of charity toward the other members of our community” and “considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.”
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