Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has said that the Pope’s role is not to change Church teaching.
Speaking yesterday on the TV programme, CBS This Morning, Cardinal Dolan said: “Pope Francis “would be the first to say, ‘my job isn’t to change church teaching; my job is to present it as clearly as possible.’”
Cardinal Dolan, president of the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops, was asked to comment in particular on the Pope’s remark: “If a person is gay, seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge? They should not be marginalised. They are our brothers.”
That remark, the cardinal said, reflects “a gentle, merciful, understanding, compassionate” approach to church teaching which emphasises “that while certain acts may be wrong, we would always love and respect the person and treat the person with dignity.”
The Archbishop of New York said that the Pope’s words “may be something people find new and refreshing. I for one don’t think it is and I hate to see previous popes caricatured as not having that,” he said in the interview.
In the 80-minute news conference on the plane from Rio de Janeiro to Rome returning from World Youth Day, the Pope also answered questions about women in the church, divorce and his own spirituality.
Answering a question about reports of a gay lobby at the Vatican, the pope emphasized that it was important to “distinguish between a person who is gay and someone who makes a gay lobby,” he said. “A gay lobby isn’t good.”
Pope Francis said the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains church teaching about homosexuality very well, saying, “one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn’t this (homosexual) orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters.”
The catechism states that people with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect and compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
The Church teaches that all sexual activity outside of the legitimate marriage of one man and one woman is sinful.
When asked if he was surprised by the Pope’s comments, Cardinal Dolan said he was not. “What surprises me is that people are surprised,” he said.
The cardinal stressed that church teaching on homosexuality has not changed.
“While we are rather cogent in our teaching we’re equally compelling in the mercy, the graciousness, the respect with which we say it,” he added.