Among the covert, of course, is the great number of male homosexuals. Benedict was also a great Augustinian, once saying Confessions is the only book other than the Bible he would need on a desert island. But behind even such updates as Francis may achieve, I would suggest, lies the core problem. This basic recognition has serious consequences for any orthodoxy that seeks to subdue, or vilify, healthy sexual expression. Some , years of natural selection acting on our own species, with perhaps a billion years of laying the biological groundwork before that, have formed us in exactly this way.
The questions that must be asked are terrifying: In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul hotly chastises the brethren for behavior unbecoming of the saved. All three are unusual in official Catholic teaching. Unlike Pope John Paul II, who characterised contraceptive use as a selfish manipulation and degradation of human sexuality, Francis paints an attractive picture of a love so intense that it seeks to go beyond itself. Pope Francis is a deeply humble man, one who cares for the poor, committed to ecumenical dialogue. Beyond such cases, though, stand the truly pathological: While working in the Missionaries of Charity, she had a lesbian relationship with a fellow sister who turned out to be a sexual predator; a love affair with a priest; and a personal awakening to the cost of loneliness that caused her to leave the Church altogether. Those removed from the Church 2. Until a Pope can acknowledge this—and, in truth, I do not see how any Pope can—the particular species of suffering that started with Paul will continue to take its toll. It was to Aquinas, by the way, that the recently self-deposed Pope Benedict advocated the modern, science and reason-based West needed to return. One hears, of him, the usual roster of encomia. Since sex is an essential part of that sharing, Francis says, couples ought to pay attention to it. Is the seminary process forming pedophiles, or just attracting them? The possible avenues are many: Paul seems also to be stepping into an active debate over whether sex should be permissible at any time, inside marriage or out. Another Jesuit at the same school has since been defrocked, with painful predictability, for molestation. But Francis avoids simplistic, sweeping judgments of cultural views. Also, the secular culture of the s did it. To put it bluntly, when that picture was taken, the saintly Father Maciel had been a rapist for some three decades, his victims including his own children. And for those at the start of their sexual lives, rather than the twilight, the pope speaks openly of the need for sex education. His approach to sex and contraception is notable for its affirmation of sexual passion, its realism about what can go wrong in marital relationships and its focus on growing in intimacy. But Francis is concerned that children and young adults are being shortchanged by limited curricula. For relatively healthy clergy—gay, straight, or bi—and for their parishioners, the cost in hypocrisy alone of all this duplicity must be extreme. One would like to think the new Pope, who comes out from behind the bulletproof barriers to embrace the faithful he clearly loves, will make changes that dignify his wounded Church. One thinks, even at a quick glance, of Origen, the Church Father who took a knife to his own genitals inspired by this act, a Christian sect called the Valesians are reported to have castrated not only themselves, but others. He briefly references Humanae Vitae's ban of contraception on the grounds that the unitive and procreative meanings of sex are inseparable. Francis has shown some flexibility here, early reports suggesting he is open to considering condoms for the purpose of preventing disease.
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