Pope Francis and Phil Robertson in Context

The statements of Phil Robertson, whose name I had never heard before the Duck Dynasty controversy, are being compared with those of Pope Francis in a way that is not fair to either party.  For someone who may read this in an archive sometime well beyond 2013, Phil Robertson became “news” when GQ, a men’s magazine, published an interview in which he was asked about homosexuality and sin.

After an initial crude comment, Robertson, the star of a reality TV show and a teacher in his local church, explained his views on sin.  “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

He then continued: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers they won’t inherit the kingdom of God.”  That’s simply a close paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

Here’s that passage in the New International Version, a popular version among evangelical and conservative Protestants such as Robertson.  “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

The question was fair, and his answer was biblically based.  What is truly “controversial” among those who have accepted the sexual revolution as normative is 1) belief in New Testament teachings on sexuality and 2) public expression of that belief.

The other side of the comparison is the remark Pope Francis made in his interview with journalists on the flight from Rio de Janeiro after the World Youth Day conference in July.  Near the end of the 80-minute press conference, a journalist asked the Pope about his June appointment of Monsignor Battista Ricca, a person reputed to have a same-sex orientation, to reform the Vatican bank.  “Holiness, what do you intend to do about this question. How to address this question and how Your Holiness intends to address the whole question of the gay lobby?”

Pope Francis replied as follows:

“Regarding Monsignor Ricca: I did what Canon Law mandates to do, which is the investigatio previa. And from that investigatio there was nothing of that which they accuse him of, we did not find anything of that. This is the answer.

“But I would like to add something else on this: I see that so many times in the Church, outside of this case and also in this case, they go to look for the ‘sins of youth,’ for example, no? And this is published. Not the crimes. Crimes are something else: the abuse of minors is a crime. No, the sins.

“But if a person, lay or priest or Sister, has committed a sin and then has converted, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is important for our life. When we go to confession and truly say: ‘I have sinned in this,’ the Lord forgets and we don’t have the right not to forget, because we run the risk that the Lord won’t forget our [sins]. That’s a danger.

“This is important: a theology of sin. I think so many times of St. Peter: he committed one of the worst sins, which is to deny Christ, and with this sin he was made Pope. We must give it much thought.

“But, returning to your more concrete question: in this case, I did the investigatio previa and we found nothing. This is the first question.

“Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Goodness knows! So much is written of the gay lobby. I still have not met one who will give me the identity card with ‘gay.’  They say that they exist.

“I think that when one meets a person like this, one must distinguish the fact of being a gay person from the fact of doing a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. That’s bad.

“If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in such a beautiful way, it says, Wait a bit, as is said, and says: ‘these persons must not be marginalized because of this; they must be integrated in society.’

“The problem isn’t having this tendency, no. We must be brothers, because this is one, but there are others, others. The problem is the lobbying of this tendency: lobby of the avaricious, lobby of politicians, lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. This, for me, is the more serious problem. And I thank you.”

That was the end of the press conference.

From this, the liberal press, pro-sodomy writers, and even some conservatives have taken one sentence out of context:  “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him?”  I think the Pope could have made a better choice of words, but he had been on the grill for well over an hour.  It would have been better to have said “has a same-sex orientation” instead of “is gay” because in much of the world the word “gay” denotes not just an orientation but also the rejection of the biblical teaching that sodomy is sinful.  Thus, with the advantage of hindsight, it should be clear that what the Pope meant and should have said for greater clarity is something like this:

“If a person has [a same-sex orientation and is repentant for all past sins] and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge [that he is unfit for a banking function in the Vatican]?”

A Blessed Christmas Week to you and yours.

John F. Kippley, also at www.nfpandmore.org

Next week:  If Pope Francis were asked the same questions, how would his answer have differed from that of Phil Robertson?

Pope Francis’ Opportunity

Pope Francis continues to draw the curiosity of the world’s elite and the poor alike.  Among orthodox Catholics there is even a bit of nostalgia as we think back to the early years of the pontificate of soon-to-be Saint Pope John Paul II.  I think it is fair to say that he made Humanae Vitae the focus of the first ten years of his pontificate.  This is pretty well documented in Chapter 7 of Sex and the Marriage Covenant from which I have lifted the following on page 148 of the 2005 edition:

“In his manner of speaking John Paul II has left no room for doubt that the doctrine of marital non-contraception  reaffirmed by Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, and Familiaris Consortio must be believed and put into practice.  He has taught that

  • to hold out for exceptions as if God’s grace were not sufficient is a form of atheism (September 17, 1981);
  • denying the doctrine of marital non-contraception is “equivalent to denying the Catholic concept of revelation” (April 10, 1986);
  • it is a teaching whose truth is beyond discussion (June 5, 1987);
  • it is a “teaching which belongs to the permanent patrimony of the Church’s moral doctrine” and “a truth which cannot be questioned” (March 14, 1988).

On the other hand, despite all of the reaffirmations by Pope John Paul II, the use of natural family planning continued to drop all throughout the Eighties, probably bottoming out in the Nineties, and still so very low that it can hardly get lower.  I mean, there are a certain number of people who simply “get it” and recognize that unnatural forms of birth control are truly “unnatural” and will not have anything to do with them.  A certain number of mothers similarly “get it” regarding ecological breastfeeding which some of them discover on their own simply because it is so natural.

Somehow or other, however, Pope John Paul II didn’t seem to get through to most of the bishops in North America and Europe that they need to take Humanae Vitae seriously and do everything within their power to teach it and provide the practical help to live it.  I do not know what effects his affirmations had in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, but I have never seen anything to indicate they were much better than the morally declining West.

So maybe Pope Francis has seen all of this and is looking for a different approach.  I found one sentence in his October 30th America interview to be intriguing.  It is preceded by these sentences:

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.  The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.”

Then he says: “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

Some have been disappointed in these few sentences, but I find a reason for hope in that last sentence.  Maybe he sees that the abortion and same-sex issues (and also the widespread sex-as-sport attitude with its ramifications in fornication, adultery, and prostitution) are not disjointed but all stem from the acceptance of marital contraception.

Just about 100 years ago Margaret Sanger began her very public campaign to legalize contraception.  Within a few years, she had influenced the progressives so much that they were spelling out the logical consequences of the contraceptive lifestyle, and it was widely practiced in the “Roaring Twenties.”  Secular humanist Walter Lippmann wrote in 1929 that they were following the logic of contraception but not the logic of human nature.

The baby born out-of-wedlock has two strikes against him, and the likelihood of poverty is one of them. Perhaps Pope Francis will be the international leader who points out the connection between the acceptance of marital contraception and the whole unhappy rest of the sexual revolution — and that the poor are the ones who suffer the most from it.  Maybe he can be the one to lead the other ecclesial leaders to recognize that God does have a plan for love and sexuality starting with the basic fact that the marriage act ought to be a true  marriage act that reaffirms the faith and love and “for better and for worse” openness to life of the marriage covenant.

 So please pray for Pope Francis.  He has a great opportunity.  And please pray for the continued efforts of NFP International.  Next year we will begin a transition process that will certainly need the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so we ask your prayers.

We remain in the fight.  Please help us first of all with prayer for the NFPI apostolate.  Second, please help us financially as you see fit.  Every gift is important whether it’s $5 or $500 because every gift is a vote of confidence, and that’s something we need.

Third, please help us with your ideas.  What more can we do to get our message to those who need and are open to what we have to offer?   If there is something you think we should do and can do, please let us know.

Lastly, check out the NFP website blogs every week and share them as you can.   (www.nfpandmore.org)

Your December gift will be matched by a donor up to $10,000 total.  May God continue to bless you for whatever help you provide.

John F. Kippley,  President, NFP International

P. S.  Couples are finding the NFPI Home Study Course very helpful.  See the next page.

 NFP International is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, and gifts are tax-deductible.

Comments from users of the NFPI Home Study Course

  • This was very educating.  I learned things about myself that I never knew before.
  • The course has been very beneficial to me in more ways than I thought would be possible.  I definitely learned more about my religions and how the Church sees and feels about the marital act.  The course definitely has opened my eyes and reshaped and refocused my path to future family planning. 
  • We appreciate all your help and how responsive you have been.  The course has been great and the NFP process seems really strong.
  • I believe this is very valuable information.  We have also made the decision to discuss with local priests about offering the class for the local Catholic churches as part of pre-marital counseling.  I only wish I had learned this information years ago, especially the ecological breastfeeding prior to my first child.                    Note:  This writer works at a clinic which does “not offer, recommend or refer for abortion,   abortifacients or birth control.”  The NFPI course and materials will be free at this clinic, and she is now going through teacher training to teach NFP at the clinic.
  • The course is an informative guide to accurately monitor one’s cycle.  It accommodates a busy schedule, and the material is clear and easy to understand.
  • We truly wish that others would see NFP as we do.  I know that a man and a woman can benefit  tremendously from this method, following God’s teaching and procreating.  It is healthy, simple, convenient and thorough.  We have started charting.  We both know how much we love each other, and each month will be our relationship story replayed over and over again. 
  • We really enjoyed learning about this and talking with each other about what we have learned. 

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If you know someone who would benefit from the NFPI Home Study Course, have them go to the NFPI Home Page – www.nfpandmore.org. – and then click on the Home Study course near the top of the page.  It’s that simple.


The above is the Advent Fund Appeal of NFP International.  If you feel moved to help this apostolate financially,  use the Please Donate button in the left hand column at http://www.nfpandmore.org.   Many thanks for reading and even more for your prayers and and other help.