At Where Peter Is, Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein and Dr. Robert Fastiggi agree with Mike Lewis as follows: “Francis’s words here belong entirely to the prudential order. This is not about doctrinal issues. He is proposing what he thinks are sound pastoral and societal approaches towards family members and partners who happen to be homosexual.” Let’s consider if that is true.
[Updated: see the comment below by Dr. Fastiggi agreeing that some of what Francis said is “more than prudential”. My critique of what Mike Lewis said follows.]
Pope Francis: “Homosexuals have a right to be in the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out of the family or have a miserable life because of it. We need to have a law of civil union. They have a right to be legally covered. I defended this.”
They have a right… a right… no one should ever be treated this way. They have a right to legal protection. That is not entirely of the prudential order. Whether or not there are particular laws on the subject, and what in particular they allow or disallow is prudential, to some extent. But laws often regard fundamental human rights, like the right to freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and the right to be in a family, have your own family, and be treated with the great respect that all human persons deserve. These are fundamental human rights, which are often denied to gay (or trans) persons. And the Pope is teaching us on the moral law about those rights.
If it were entirely of the prudential order, then we would be free to disagree. We are not. This is a teaching of grave moral weight about fundamental human rights, which of course do not apply only to gay persons, but to everyone. It just happens that certain persons tend to be denied these rights, implicitly or explicitly, and so they need a particular law defending them.
I remind all papal commentators, those defending the Pope and those criticizing him, that we have a grave moral obligation to submit our minds, hearts, and whole persons to the Pope as our Teacher and Shepherd. When defending the Pope, we must always remember that submission. We are not greater than the Pope, a teacher defending a student. We are his students, and we must not speak as if he were under our judgment.
It’s also wrong to be quick to label a public expression of the Pope as mere opinion or as merely prudential, which then has the effect of undermining the teaching that he is expressing to the world and the Church.
Pope Francis is truly my teacher and shepherd. I wonder if all of his supporters and critics can say the same.