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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis is seemingly deploying situation ethics as a get-out clause to circumvent the Catholic Church's categorical prohibition of homosexual acts as intrinsically evil.
In a handwritten letter to Jesuit LGBT propagandist Fr. James Martin, Francis qualifies the biblical and magisterial proscription of homosexual behavior with the proviso: "Of course, one must also consider the circumstances, which may decrease or eliminate fault."
Father Martin posted the pope's letter on his Twitter channel on Saturday at 12 a.m., hours after Pope Francis had penned the missive in response to three questions that the Jesuit homosexualist activist posed to the pontiff.
The pope's Spanish letter was translated into English by J.D. Long-García and Ivan Briggeler and published on "Outreach," a website that claims to be "an LGBTQ Catholic resource" operating "under the auspices of America Media, a Jesuit ministry."
Francis' communiqué was published with an accompanying Outreach article headlined: "Pope Francis clarifies comments on homosexuality: 'One must consider the circumstances.'"
Martin emphasized the apparent exemption the pope was offering for homosexual acts in a tweet that noted how Francis had "clarified his recent comments on homosexuality" in his "historic interview" with the Associated Press in the words "one must consider the circumstances."
In his note of clarification to Martin, Francis did not specify the circumstances under which the fault of homosexual acts would be "decreased or eliminated."
Instead, clarifying his words in his interview that AP published on Wednesday, Francis wrote to Martin, "When I said it [homosexuality] is a sin, I was simply referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin."
Francis added a further escape clause to his restating of Church teaching, noting, "This is to speak of 'the matter' of sin, but we know well that Catholic morality not only takes into consideration the matter but also evaluates freedom and intention; and this, for every kind of sin."
Speaking to Church Militant, Catholic theologian Dr. Gavin Ashenden noted that "the pope's 'elimination of fault' by 'circumstances' offers a principle of moral discernment without boundaries or limits."
"Unless carefully qualified, it can be used as an instrument of complete relativization," Ashenden warned. "Which, in the context of the legitimization of homoerotic love, is what was intended by the author and will have been received by the recipient."
Ashenden, the host of the Merely Catholic podcast, elaborated:
The progressives, following an ethical initiative called situation ethics, want to make categories dependent on the quality of relationship. So homosexual acts of erotic intimacy escape the categorization of sinful when, as is claimed, they achieve qualitative virtues — like tenderness, permanence, fidelity, therapeutic outcomes, etc.
If Pope Francis is correct, and the quality of a relationship allows it to transcend marriage to validate homosexual relations, why should it not be used to validate extending the couple to a thrupple? Cannot three people be as tender, intimate, trusting and committed as two?
Dr. Ashenden confirmed that the pontiff was resorting to "situation ethics," a body of ethical thought that proposes that "moral decision-making is contextual or dependent on a set of circumstances."
The term "situation ethics" (also known as "situational ethics") was coined by Episcopalian priest Joseph Fletcher in 1966 in his book Situation Ethics: The New Morality. According to the ethicist, moral behavior should assume all situations are unique.
Proposing an ethic where love is the only thing that is intrinsically good, Fletcher suggests that acts like lying, premarital sex, adultery or even murder might be moral, depending on the circumstances.
While some may parse the pope's stinted remarks using Catholic moral theology, Francis has been previously criticized for words and actions that display his recourse to "situation ethics" in the arena of sexual morality.
"Pope Francis has embraced situation ethics and has strayed far from the firm and authentic foundations of Catholic morality," Catholic canonist Thomas L. Mulcahy argued in 2017.
Francis' apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia potentially opens the door to the justification of practically any type of mortal sin," Mulcahy wrote, explaining how "a fundamental aim of Amoris Laetitia was to provide a conscience argument for homosexual relationships."
In the controversial document, Francis declares, "No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves" [emphasis added].
In contrast, Pope John Paul II warned against situation ethics in his encyclical on Catholic morality, Veritatis Splendor: "Circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act 'subjectively' good or defensible as a choice."
Martin also asked the pope what he would say to Catholic bishops who still support the criminalization of homosexuality. "I would tell whoever wants to criminalize homosexuality that they are wrong," Francis responded.
Observers who noted that the remarks were targeted at the African bishops just before the pope's apostolic journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan slammed Francis for engaging in what the pontiff has condemned as "ideological colonization."
In 2008, the autonomous government of Southern Sudan adopted its own penal code, which prohibits "carnal intercourse against the order of nature," punishable by a fine and a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment.
The 2011 Passports and Immigration Act (Section 15) on Refusal or Cancellation of Visa states, "Without prejudice to the provisions of Section (14) above, a visa shall not be granted to an alien who (6) is reasonably suspected to be entering South Sudan for the purposes of prostitution, homosexuality, lesbianism or human trafficking."
Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Article 40 of the Congolese Constitution: "All individuals have the right to marry a person of their choice of the opposite sex and to create a family."
Interestingly, Francis seems to contradict the spirit of paragraph 251 of Amoris Laetitia, which states, "It is unacceptable 'that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter [same-sex marriage] and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish 'marriage' between persons of the same sex."
In October 2021, Pope Francis and top Ghanaian Cdl. Peter Turkson kept a diplomatic silence as Catholic bishops in Ghana endorsed government legislation to criminalize LGBT advocacy, Church Militant reported.
The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill (2021) prohibits "LGBTQ+ and related activities" and "propaganda of, advocacy for, or promotion of LGBTTQQIAAP+ and related activities." It cites an interest in protecting children and victims of abuse.
On Nov. 11, Pope Francis received James Martin for the second time in a private audience at the papal library of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace. "He was incredibly supportive of me," Fr. Martin said.
In 2020, Francis scandalized faithful Catholics when he phoned Andrea Rubera and Dario De Gregorio, who are credited with convincing the pope that "homosexuals have the right to have a family." In 2009, the couple got "married" in Canada and had three children with lesbian surrogate mother Kerilyn.
The homoparental duo applauded Francis for unconditionally welcoming them into the Church as a homosexual couple with children. "I'm Pope Francis. I called you twice, but you didn't answer. I read your letter. It's beautiful, and I understood your point of view," Francis told Rubera in response to a letter from the couple.