Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the notoriously anti-LGBT Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, seems not to know what to make of Pope Francis’s reported remarks to a gay man that “God made you like this and loves you like this.”
Meanwhile, a few far-right commentators have finally weighed in on the matter, saying the pope is endorsing sin, and some others are saying he may have been misunderstood.
Dolan, speaking Tuesday on his Sirius XM radio show, said Jesus Christ would have said the same thing to the man, Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest. But he also said the pope was not qualified to say God made people gay.
Dolan called Francis’s comments “beautiful” and said they reflected “conservative, traditional, Catholic orthodox teaching,” as reported by Crux, a Catholic news website. He added, “While any sexual expression outside of a man and woman in marriage is contrary to God’s purpose, so is not treating anyone, including a gay person, with anything less than dignity and respect.”
But he said there was “ongoing debate” as to whether people are born gay. “Is it nature or nurture? ... I don’t think the Holy Father would feel competent to speak on that,” Dolan said.
Dolan noted that the information came “third hand: what the pope said to him, he said to the press, so one would want to get a clarification.” Vatican officials have so far declined to confirm or deny what the pope said, saying that’s the policy regarding comments he makes in private meetings.
Some right-wing commentators were considerably rougher on the pope. “Pope Francis, who has been notoriously wobbly on the issue of homosexuality, has apparently joined Lady Gaga in the ‘Born That Way’ crowd,” the intensely anti-LGBT Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association wrote in a column this week on the AFA website. (By the way, the song is “Born This Way.”)
“While the Bible’s view is that we are to ‘love the sinner but hate the sin,’ the Pope has now modified it to ‘love the sinner and love the sin,’” Fischer continued. “Homosexuality is a form of sexual deviancy because it so radically deviates from the revealed will of God regarding sexual expression. … Homosexuality is in the same category as adultery, sexual immorality, prostitution, pederasty, and pedophilia as forms of sexual activity that are utterly contrary to the plan of God for humanity.”
Pope Francis is in “scientific error” as well as “theological error” in endorsing the idea that people are born gay, Fischer added, and he theorized that Cruz was gay because he had been sexually abused by a man — and that Christianity could help him become heterosexual. Those are, of course, theories that have been refuted by science.
Alan Keyes, a conservative Catholic commentator who has run for the U.S. Senate and the presidency, also was upset by the pope’s reported comments. In a column on right-wing site BarbWire, he said Francis may have been influenced by emotion or that Cruz’s memory could be faulty, “but as they appear in Mr. Cruz’s account, the words ascribed to the Pope are fraught with peril — for the Papacy, the Church and the victims of sexual abuse and deceit represented by Juan Carlos Cruz and his companions at Santa Marta,” the Vatican residence where the pope hosted the Chilean abuse survivors. “The statement that God makes homosexuals is scandalous.” (It’s worth noting that Keyes has a lesbian daughter, Maya, and reportedly disowned her some years ago.)
J.D. Flynn, editor in chief of the Catholic News Agency, was more tolerant of the pope but by no means LGBT-supportive. He wrote in a column on the agency’s site that Francis’s comments were likely “unclear, confused, or misunderstood.” Flynn said the church doesn’t consider same-sex attraction a sin, but it is not to be acted on, and it is a “cross” for an individual to bear. “We are unlikely to be sure what was said,” he added. “But in charity, we should presume the best of the pope.”