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Fr. Michael OrsiPatrick Novecosky

NAPLES, Florida, October 27, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A Florida priest criticized as “extremely questionable” Pope Francis’ recent remarks, in which the Holy Father appeared to support legal recognition of homosexual relationships.

“The problem is we are giving approval to sinful behavior,” explained Fr. Michael Orsi, a Catholic priest in Naples, Florida. “And because homosexual relationships are sinful behavior, a homosexual relationship endangers the soul. It is a mortal sin.”

“When the pope encourages civil unions, that becomes extremely questionable,” Orsi told his congregation on Sunday, pointing out that many people have asked him about the Pope’s statements regarding “civil unions for same-sex couples, their right to a family and their right to be part of a family.”

Speaking in the context of Sunday’s Gospel message, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Orsi set the record straight: Church teaching has not changed.

“Some people think that whenever the Pope speaks, it is an official pronouncement of the Church, and that’s not true,” Orsi said. “He speaks in many registers, if you will.”

Completely separate from a Pope’s private opinions, there is the ordinary teaching of the Church, “which is the Church’ s belief based on Scripture and tradition which we have believed for two thousand plus years,” and “there is extraordinary magisterium when the pope speaks infallibly on an issue,” Orsi explained.

This takes the form of a solemn, formal pronouncement in which the pope says, “I declare, I proclaim, I define.”

“And even when he speaks in those words what he says must be based on Scripture and tradition,” the priest said. “In other words, a Pope cannot make up something new because it is politically correct.”

Francis’ recently published statement on homosexual unions “holds no theological weight,” Orsi said, for it is only his personal opinion. Thus, there has been no change in Church teaching, and if anyone says otherwise, he “doesn’t know what [he] is talking about or is [indulging in] wishful thinking.”

The Church’s perennial teaching against homosexual relations is not something human society made up because of culture, Orsi said. It is based in both Scripture and tradition. In Scripture, prohibitions against homosexual practices can be found in Genesis, Leviticus, and the letters of St. Paul. The tradition or doctrine of the Church can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which “tells us what we must believe as Catholics,” Orsi said.

Section 2357 of the Catechism describes homosexuality as a disorder and as “something that cannot be acceptable for human beings’ good human behavior,” Orsi summarized, whereas section 2358 talks about the Church’s relationship with homosexual persons.

“Here it says [that] although we have those prohibitions, that to engage in a homosexual act is a mortal sin, contrary to God’s law and contrary to nature, what the Church has always counseled is this: that homosexual persons be treated with dignity and respect.”

However, this does not include applauding civil recognition of homosexual unions, as Pope Francis seemed to have done in the latest documentary film about him, Francesco. Orsi stated that the Pope’s words were “questionable” and that granting civil unions to same-sex couples is a “problem.”

Orsi acknowledged that many people don’t talk about sin anymore but underscored that’s what homosexuality is.

“It’s a disordered way of acting, and therefore it’s against Scripture, tradition, and the natural law,” he continued. “So for us to say that we should allow or encourage civil unions would to be to give somewhat of an approval to a situation which will lead to mortal sin for those who are involved, and therefore it jeopardizes their immortal souls.”

Because Francis mentioned a “right to a family,” Orsi also addressed the now-thorny issues of what a family is and what the best interests of children are.

“Once again, the right to a family is based on Scripture,” he said. “It is the relationship between a man and a woman. And we know that that is the best way to raise a child.”

Declaring that the nuclear family is no longer needed and saying that we can “reconstruct the family any way we want” calls into question “our position regarding what is good for a child, what is the best situation for a child to be raised in,” the priest suggested.

Orsi indicated that he knows these issues are sensitive, having been a priest for 45 years, especially for listeners who have homosexual inclinations or homosexual family members. He underscored that Christians must not disown anyone because they are homosexual. But at the same time, he believes homosexual behavior should not be tolerated within the family.

“We always act in charity,” the priest said.

“That means we don’t disown someone, but we must always encourage them to do the right thing, and to pray for them, and in a very sensitive way to point out that the behavior they are engaged in is sinful behavior [and] is detrimental to their immortal soul, to their salvation,” he continued.

“Also, those persons have an obligation to respect the Church, the Church’s teaching, and the customs and beliefs of their natural family. In other words, you don’t want it to happen that someone is literally shoving it in your face, as they say, and making you and the rest of your family uncomfortable because of behavior that you disapprove of.”

Orsi argued that refraining from telling people who engage in homosexual acts that they are endangering their souls is false charity. We have to speak the truth because someone’s soul is at stake, he said.

“If we don’t speak the truth, we lose them and a number of souls in the rest of society who are now being led astray,” the priest explained.

Orsi compared the person who does not speak the truth about sin to a doctor who does not tell his patient when the latter is diagnosed with cancer. “Charity is when we speak the truth to help another human being achieve their salvation,” he said.

The priest ended his homily with a “famous saying” from his seminary days — salus animarum suprema lex: “The safety of souls is the highest law.”