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San Diego's bishop is building on an impromptu response made by Pope Francis to gin up a so-called practical apology by the Church to the gay community, which would include jettisoning Catholic terminology.
Last week, in reference to an off-the-cuff response Pope Francis made to reporters while flying back from Armenia in which he said Christians should apologize to gays, Bp. Robert McElroy said, "I think it opens up a very helpful pathway to dialogue and hopefully healing."
McElroy says Pope Francis brings to LGBT Catholics who feel marginalized or alienated by the Church a "renewed and deepened focus on the question of accompaniment and the mercy of God for all of us."
After the Orlando shooting on June 12 where 49 people were gunned down in a gay nightclub, the Pope was asked on the papal plane what he thought about those who say the "Catholic Church must ask forgiveness to the gay community for having marginalized these people" (referring to homosexuals).
The Holy Father answered by broadening the subject from being merely an apology exclusively to gays to making it to the marginalized or exploited in general.
"I think that the Church must not only ask forgiveness ... to the gay person who is offended," he answered, "but She must ask forgiveness to the poor too, to women who are exploited, to children who are exploited for labor.
Pope Francis quickly discounted the notion that he meant by "Church" the indefectible institution of the universal Catholic Church. "[W]hen I say the Church, I mean Christians! The Church is holy, we are sinners!" he clarified. "Christians must ask forgiveness for having not accompanied so many choices, so many families."
He went on to say that many people did set good examples. "There are many hospital chaplains, prison chaplains, many saints."
But instead of limiting himself to these statements, Bp. McElroy builds on them by adding his own spin. "My own view is that much of the destructive attitude of many Catholics to the gay and lesbian community is motivated by a failure to comprehend the totality of the Church's teaching on homosexuality."
McElroy then focuses on the virtue of chastity as defined in sections 2337 and following of the Catechism. This term is a focal point of immorality among the gay community. Discounting the importance of chastity, the bishop says that "it does not have the uniquely pre-eminent role in determining the character of a disciple of Christ nor one's relationship with the Church."
He went on to say he appreciated the notion of an apology as an opportunity "to try to really create an understanding and a reality in the life of the Church that members of the [LGBT] community are welcome, and genuinely so."
He also recommended as a practical step towards making an apology to the gay community that the Catholic Church should stop using the term "intrinsically disordered" when describing homosexual acts, as it does in section 2357 of the Catechism.
"The word 'disordered' to most people is a psychological term," he commented. "In Catholic moral theology it is a philosophical term that is automatically misunderstood in our society as a psychological judgment." According to him, it evidences a "very destructive language that I think we should not use pastorally."
As reported in February, Bp. McElroy also wants the term "intrinsic evil" to be discarded from Church vocabulary.
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