Another papal bombshell: the confusion is intentional

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | May 21, 2018

Another day, another papal bombshell. Another statement attributed to the Holy Father that is clearly at variance with established Church teaching. Another set of sensational headlines. Here we go again.

Did Pope Francis really tell Juan Carlos Cruz that he should embrace his homosexuality? That “you have to be happy with who you are”? That “God made you like that and He loves you like that and I do not care”? We don’t know. We probably never will know, at least not with any degree of certainty.

Cruz says that the Pope made those statements, and the Vatican has not contradicted him. So don’t blame the media. Journalists are doing their jobs: reporting on statements that are indisputably newsworthy. The Pope could defuse the story, by saying that the statements are inaccurate. But—in this case as in so many others before it—he chooses not to do so.

Which leaves us, as I see it, with only two possibilities:

  1. The Pope did make the statements that Cruz attributed to him—or at least statements close enough so that no correction is necessary, because he intends to change Church teaching on the question of homosexuality.
  2. The Pope did not make the statements attributed to him, but he does not choose to issue a public correction because he is content to allow confusion about Church teaching on the question of homosexuality.

Really, is there any other way to explain the Pope’s statement and his subsequent silence—in this case and many others? A few such statements might be explained away as slips of the tongue or misunderstandings or bad translations or inaccurate reports. But the pattern is now crystal clear.

In Lost Shepherd I remarked: “The confusion in Amoris Laetitia is not a bug; it is a feature.” The same could be said of this entire pontificate.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - May. 26, 2018 2:12 PM ET USA

    Yes, it seems there are these two remaining possible explanations, and both are bad. A few brave priests, bishops, and cardinals are taking a stand against the confusion, but this Pope ignores them. The faithful Catholic laity are all that’s left, and we, as motley and scared as we are, now have to take our place in the front lines and “clamor like champions” to defend the Faith handed down to us from the Apostles.

  • Posted by: Bellarminite1 - May. 24, 2018 11:12 AM ET USA

    If one is same-sex attracted but is also chaste, has he sinned?

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - May. 23, 2018 7:53 PM ET USA

    Cieslajohn7542 speculates that the private-now-public conversation is being respected by the Pope's silence. Jalsardl5053 hits the nail on the head. Each of the news reports which incites scandal in the public eye could be used by the Pope as a teaching moment, an opportunity to educate the press and interested public on what the Church actually teaches about this or that type of behavior, this or that situation under consideration. Repeatedly missing these opportunities is either negligent or..

  • Posted by: claude-ccc2991 - May. 23, 2018 2:31 PM ET USA

    This far down the road, it's a mistake 2 look @ any bombshell in isolation. It's also a mistake 2 dismiss this simply because it's a private conversation. How 2 explain this mass of bombshells? PF has a raging case of spiritual narcissism. That is, he desires much more strongly 2 be SEEN as merciful than 2 be authentically merciful. This disordered passion often drives him 2 make choices that substitute laxity 4 authentic mercy. He rages @ rules because they hold a mirror up 2 his narcissism.

  • Posted by: cieslajohn7542 - May. 23, 2018 9:17 AM ET USA

    You may or may not be correct, Phil, but both your possibilities rely on pure speculation. The Pope may just be respecting what he feels was a private conversation.

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - May. 23, 2018 3:59 AM ET USA

    It doesn't matter if the conversation was private; it is now public. And he doesn't have to take on Cruz directly; a simple recalling of the Church's teaching would be enough answer. If the pope thinks that he is avoiding controversy by missing the opportunity, he is sadly mistaken. Mr. Lawler is also too kind: The confusion...from this entire pontificate is scandalous.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - May. 22, 2018 11:02 PM ET USA

    My explanation: "weaponized ambiguity"

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - May. 22, 2018 7:01 PM ET USA

    Right on the mark, again. Recall the previous U.S. Administration that "never let a crisis go to waste." Keep setting fires all over the place, and it's just like any other slight of hand: "look over here," while you are strangling the cat behind your back with the other hand. Trump uses more subtle tactics to keep his political opponents off balance. It's a question of intellect versus cunning. In Trump's case, the media are always trying to catch up. In the other case, the confusion destroys.

  • Posted by: garedawg - May. 22, 2018 10:28 AM ET USA

    Perhaps he is just following the policy of not commenting on private conversations. Although it was not an official confession, it was probably pretty close, and if the other fellow is foolish enough to blab, what can the Pope do? Perhaps it is best just to let the heathen rage.