SANTIAGO, Chile (ChurchMilitant.com) - Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay journalist and survivor of clerical sexual abuse, is claiming that Pope Francis is "hurt" by the Vatican's declaration affirming Catholic teachings on marriage and human sexuality — despite having endorsed the declaration.
"I spoke with the pope," Cruz told Chile's La Tercera newspaper in an April 10 article, adding, "I don't want to betray a confidence, but I know that the pope is a man who is very hurt by this, although ultimately he is responsible."
It was Cruz who in 2018 told various media that Francis commented about his homosexuality, "God has made you like this." Cruz identifies as a Catholic.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) released the declaration as a response to doubts raised about the Church's teaching regarding gay couples. Its responsum ad dubium, or reply to a doubt, declared that God "does not and cannot bless sin," thus heading off calls to bless same-sex unions coming from various Catholic leaders, including many German prelates.
The Vatican's doctrinal watchdog arm reiterated "the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex." It added, the Church "does not have the power over God's designs" and is "not the arbiter of these designs and the truths they express, but their faithful interpreter and witness." The blessing of such unions, the document clarified, is "illicit" and "unlawful."
The chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Bp. Georg Bätzing, immediately defied the responsum, saying there are "no easy answers" regarding pastoral response to homosexual unions. Other members of the German episcopacy have issued confusing messages about homosexual unions. These include German cardinal Reinhard Marx, who insisted in 2019 that homosexual unions may receive the blessing of the Church "in the sense of pastoral care" but without signifying they are equivalent to a Catholic marriage.
Elsewhere, Belgium's Bp. Johan Bonny was incensed by the Vatican's responsum. Bonney declared that as a theologian, he apologized to "all for whom the Vatican's position is painful and incomprehensible."
Journalist Cruz was among three men awarded $150,000 each in 2019 from the Church by a court following revelations that they had been sexually abused by Fr. Fernando Karadima. Bishop Juan Barros, whom Pope Francis initially defended, eventually resigned after facing accusations that he allowed the sexual abuse. Cruz became one of the most notable victims and witnesses of priestly abuse in South America. Francis has frequently called him and received him in a personal audience at the Vatican to hear his story.
In March 2021, Francis named Cruz to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the watchdog body that investigates sex crimes committed by the religious against minors. It was the pope himself who reportedly called to ask him to join. Cruz told La Tercera, "They told me that they put me there to silence me or that I have the Stockholm Syndrome, but I am not a patsy."
Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston presides over the commission. On April 8, the Vatican sponsored a virtual symposium in coordination with Harvard University in which O'Malley and Cdl. Blase Cupich participated.
Cruz acknowledged in his interview with La Tercera that Francis approved of the responsum regarding homosexual unions and is ultimately responsible for it, even while he claimed that the pontiff is "hurt" by it and will compensate for it. Cruz said, "I feel that he will repair this situation in some way."
I don't know the details, but I know that he didn't sign it. Despite that, what has been called the responsum is the responsibility of the CDF and was released anyway. That does not excuse the pope, because he is responsible for everything. The pope who I know is not a pope who would refer to the LGBT community in that way — all to the contrary.
Cruz has penned his own response to the responsum. He penned an op-ed titled "Who am I to judge?", a reference to a statement the pope made in 2013 that was understood by some to be an approval of homosexual liaisons. In his op-ed, Cruz slammed the CDF for its seeming double standard: "Why do these men feel that they have the right to so offensively discriminate against the LGBT community with phrases such as 'The Church cannot bless sin.' Excuse me? Prohibited from blessing? Haven't we seen bishops blessing [Fr. Fernando] Karadima?"
Cruz skewered CDF prefects:
They live in their own world, far removed from people and trying to defend the indefensible. We see this in the monstrous statement on same-sex unions, the slowness in examining abuse crimes, their lack of humanity and knowledge of human suffering. I know excellent people at CDF who are working to do justice and explain Catholic doctrine. But, unfortunately, prefects in the style of Torquemada's Inquisition do what they want to continue frightening off Catholics.
But annoyance with the Church's position extends far beyond just the hierarchy and its defenders.
The Vatican's defense of marriage stirred up considerable controversy, especially among persons living a homosexual lifestyle and those who champion their cause.
For example, Fr. Kenneth Boller, S.J. of St. Francis Xavier parish in New York City was apologetic about the responsum. In an open letter to his congregation, he declared, "We are deeply saddened and share the pain of the LGBTQ community, especially those members in the process of preparing ... to receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil."
Boller asserted the responsum was "not unexpected given the CDF's history" and added: "Especially painful are the words that God 'does not and cannot bless sin.'" Parish groups under his guidance include "Catholic Lesbians" and "Gay Catholics."
Likewise, at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta, Georgia, Fr. Henry Gracz wrote on Facebook that, as pastor, he was "deeply saddened and pained by a statement that appeared from an office at the Vatican concerning blessings." He continued: "Those words can in no way affect God's constant love for you [who commit homosexual acts]. The tone that was set by an office does not represent the love that is present at the Shrine."
Also, Mgsr. Michael Clay of St. Francis Assisi parish, Raleigh, North Carolina, was dismayed by the CDF, writing that LGBTQ people "are a blessing to us." He claims to stand in solidarity with them, "as Jesus would," and empathizes with their "pain."
Even suggesting the Church's teachings may eventually change, Clay wrote: "Nothing is perfect on earth and the Church is no exception. One hundred years ago we were a Catholic Church quite different than we are today. I have no doubt that we will look different in another hundred years — in what ways remains to be seen."
Clay wrongfully claims the Church has "changed its doctrinal teaching on freedom of conscience, slavery, usury (lending money for a profit), and divorce." While some changes, such as rules about fasting, were once thought "unimaginable," he suggests that under Pope Francis, further change is afoot.