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It has been almost 10 years since Pope Francis uttered his famous and most misinterpreted statement of his entire pontificate: "Who am I to judge?" I say "misinterpreted" because I had a similar experience involving a priest whose homosexual misconduct was recharacterized as a benign "homosexual orientation."
In a letter dated May 6, 2002, I reported a Catholic Navy chaplain for having a "live-in boyfriend" to then-Abp. Edwin O'Brien of the archdiocese for the military services. O'Brien covered up the report, and the chaplain went on to abuse U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen in Annapolis and U.S. marines at Quantico. That chaplain is currently serving a 30-year sentence in federal prison. He was charged in 2007 with conduct unbecoming an officer, aggravated assault, sodomy and failure to inform sex partners that he was HIV positive.
In a 2019 letter, I asked the current AMS archbishop, Timothy Broglio, to remove his predecessor's name from the AMS pastoral center owing to his documented gross underreporting and covering up of abuse. In his response dated Sept. 17, 2019, Broglio lied by writing that I merely "reported suspicions about Matt Lee's probable homosexual orientation." The fact is, however, the concern I raised had absolutely nothing to do with Lee's sexual orientation but specifically addressed his behavior involving a "live-in boyfriend."
What Broglio did is reminiscent of what Vatican correspondent for the Associated Press Nicole Winfield did when she reported during an in-flight press conference on July 29, 2013, that "[a] remarkably candid Pope Francis struck a conciliatory stance toward gays Monday, saying 'who am I to judge' when it comes to the sexual orientation of priests." Examination of the transcript of the press conference, however, shows that the question posed to Pope Francis had absolutely nothing to do with "the sexual orientation of priests" in general but everything to do with the homosexual misconduct of one priest in particular.
A Brazilian journalist and correspondent for Globo TV in Italy, Ilze Scamparini, posed this question to Pope Francis:
I would like permission to ask a delicate question: another image that has been going around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca and the news about his private life. I would like to know, Your Holiness, what you intend to do about this? How are you confronting this issue and how does Your Holiness intend to confront the whole question of the gay lobby?
Monsignor Battista Ricca is an Italian cleric who Pope Francis appointed as his prelate with responsibility for the Vatican Bank, and he is also in charge of the pope's residence, the Casa Santa Marta. A 2019 report noted:
Battista Ricca was claimed to have outraged church figures in Uruguay during a diplomatic posting in 1999, when he moved "his lover, Patrick Haari, a Swiss army captain, in with him," only to later have Haari forced out by apostolic nuncio Janusz Bolonek in 2001. Ricca was caught later that year in an elevator, where he was 'trapped with a youth known by local police' after being attacked at a 'cruising ground' — a meeting place for area homosexuals.
Winfield completely reinterpreted Scamparini's question about Ricca's homosexual behavior when she changed the narrative about a person's sexual behavior to that of one's "sexual orientation." While Pope Francis should not judge people based on their sexual orientation, he should not be afraid to echo Christ's judgments, "Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." (Matthew 15:19)
When the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus what He had to say about a woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3–11), He did not respond, "Who am I to judge?" Nor did the evangelist, like Winfield, reinterpret their question about the woman's adulterous behavior to be about the woman's sexual orientation.
It is clear from the Scriptures that Jesus judged adultery to be sinful. Francis' response to Scamparini's question, however, did not make it clear that, in keeping with official Catholic moral teachings, it is sinful and a violation of a priest's vow of celibacy to cohabitate and engage in homosexual relations. Like many homosexually oriented prelates and priests who are calling for the blessing of gay and lesbian relationships, Francis' much-quoted response represents a failure to affirm that sexual relations outside the marriage of one man and one woman are immoral.
Without clear and authentic Catholic moral teachings on the part of the pope and bishops, one should not be surprised that the promotion of radical inclusion by pro-LGBT prelates, like San Diego's Cdl. Robert McElroy, Munich's Cdl. Reinhard Marx or Luxembourg Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, has led to much moral confusion among Catholics today.
Who is the pope to judge? The pope is the vicar of Christ. As such, he is called to speak, act and judge as Christ did during his earthly ministry. Both the Church and the world need strong moral leadership today, but, unfortunately, Pope Francis and the cardinals he has appointed are not providing it.
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