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LISBON, Portugal (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has again indicated an openness to homosexual activity, as he has refused to affirm the Catholic teaching on chastity and celibacy for homosexuals.

Full details of the pontiff’s recent conversation with Portuguese Jesuits were released August 28. They include Pope Francis’s thoughts on homosexuality, condemnation of a “reactionary” attitude amongst American Catholics, criticism of  “indietrists” and “clericalism,” and praise of the Synod on Synodality,

As part of his customary activities while on foreign trips, Pope Francis met with Jesuits from the Portuguese province while in Lisbon for World Youth Day at the start of August. The full transcript has been released by Jesuit-run La Civilta Cattolica in Italian, English and Spanish.

Is homosexual activity always wrong?

As often is the case in such meetings, Pope Francis fielded questions on topics pertaining to Catholic morality and doctrine, refusing on this occasion to issue a clear answer on the topic of homosexuality. One Jesuit referenced his own work with university students, who are “very committed to the Church, to the center, very friendly with the Jesuits, and who identify as homosexuals.”

The priest stated that such students “feel that they are an active part of the Church, but they often do not see in doctrine their way of living affectivity, and they do not see the call to chastity as a personal call to celibacy, but rather as an imposition.” He queried whether the practice of homosexual activity in this instance would be wrong:

Since they are virtuous in other areas of their lives, and know the doctrine, can we say that they are all in error, because they do not feel, in conscience, that their relationships are sinful? And how can we act pastorally so that these people feel, in their way of life, called by God to a healthy affective life that produces fruit? Should we recognize that their relationships can open up and give seeds of true Christian love, such as the good they can accomplish, the response they can give to the Lord?

Pope Francis refused to directly answer that such activity would be sinful, instead stating that “I believe there is no discussion about the call being addressed to everyone. Jesus is very clear about this: everyone.”

READ: Pope Francis praises another pro-LGBT Catholic group in ‘warm and encouraging’ letter

“In other words, the door is open to everyone, everyone has their own space in the Church,” he continued. “How will each person live it out? We help people live so that they can occupy that place with maturity, and this applies to all kinds of people.”

The Argentinian pontiff criticized what he referred to as examining the “sins below the waist,” or “sin of the flesh” with a “magnifying glass.” 

Instead, he appeared to downplay the universal call to practice chastity, arguing that “the most appropriate pastoral attitude for each person must be applied.” 

We must not be superficial and naive, forcing people into things and behaviors for which they are not yet mature, or are not capable. It takes a lot of sensitivity and creativity to accompany people spiritually and pastorally. But everyone, everyone, everyone is called to live in the Church: never forget that.

The Pope also referenced his own regular meetings with so-called transgender individuals at his weekly audiences in the Vatican, revealing that he is in regular email contact with them. “I realized that these people feel rejected, and it is really hard,” he stated.

READ: Cardinal Burke warns synod is part of ‘revolution’ to ‘radically’ change the Catholic Church

In contrast, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) taught in its 1986 document On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons that “no authentic pastoral program will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral.”

The CDF’s 1975 document Persona Humana similarly condemns such activity, warning against the move to “excuse completely, homosexual relations between certain people.” 

“This they do in opposition to the constant teaching of the Magisterium and to the moral sense of the Christian people,” wrote the CDF, since Scripture teaches that “that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of.”

Pope Francis with Portuguese Jesuits, August 2023.

‘Reactionary’ American Catholics and ‘indietrists’

Pope Francis is no stranger to making hash criticisms of American Catholics, and it has been highlighted by numerous commentators as a peculiarity of his pontificate. Speaking with fellow Jesuits in Lisbon, he described and criticized a “very strong reactionary attitude” in the United States.

“I would like to remind those people that indietrismo (being backward-looking) is useless,” said Francis, “and we need to understand that there is an appropriate evolution in the understanding of matters of faith and morals as long as we follow the three criteria that Vincent of Lérins already indicated in the fifth century: doctrine evolves ut annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate [i.e. consolidating with the years, developing with time, deepening with age].

READ: Pope Francis belittles devotion to the Latin Mass as a ‘nostalgic disease’ during Jesuit meeting

“Doctrine progresses, expands and consolidates with time and becomes firmer, but is always progressing,” the pontiff argued. “Change develops from the roots upward, growing in accord with these three criteria.”

Citing an example of his perception of an evolution of “doctrine,” Francis argued that “the death penalty is a sin. You cannot employ it, but it was not so before.” Such a statement comes in contradiction to centuries of Catholic teaching and the words of Scripture.

In his veiled attack on the traditional Mass and its devotees, Francis argued how “indietrists … form something closed, disconnected from the roots of the Church and you lose the sap of revelation.”

He argued that such people promote an alternate Church: “ideology replaces faith, membership of a sector of the Church replaces membership of the Church.”

READ: What would St. Alphonsus say about Pope Francis’ criticisms of ‘rigid’ seminarians?

Such a spirit of “functionalism” is part of a rejection of the Second Vatican Council, the Pope opined. “There are many who question Vatican II without naming it,” he said. “They question the teachings of Vatican II.”

Instead of questioning Vatican II, Francis revealed that “my dream for the future is to be open to what the Spirit is telling us, open to discernment and not caught up with functionalism.”

Pope Francis and St. Vincent of Lerins

The Pope’s citation of St. Vincent of Lerins has become commonplace in such statements and meetings. He previously used the saint’s words when speaking with Hungarian Jesuits, in order to argue that “incredible support for restorationism” is a “nostalgic disease.”

Indeed, Pope Francis has made a habit of quoting St. Vincent’s writings when making an argument for revolution in the Church’s practice or teaching. On such occasions, Francis states that a change is simply natural and a part of the Church’s consistent “development.”

READ: Pope Francis on the Church’s ban of birth control: Morality is ‘always on a path of development’

However, St. Vincent of Lerins did not advocate for a rejection of Church teaching – despite the manner in which his words are commonly used today. Rather, he stated that as an individual’s physical body grows in accordance with the Divinely ordained plan, so must any development of Church doctrine follow the same law of progress. 

The saint wrote that such a process should “be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age, and yet, withal, to continue uncorrupt and unadulterate, complete and perfect in all the measurement of its parts, and, so to speak, in all its proper members and senses, admitting no change, no waste of its distinctive property, no variation in its limits.”

St. Vincent was in fact very clear in his opposition to novel doctrine which had no grounding in the Church’s Tradition. In instances where confusion abounds within the Church, due to a part having “cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith,” St. Vincent presents clear teaching on the Catholic response: 

What, if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his [a Catholic’s] care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty.