Via Eponymous Flower, one of the molestation victims of a Chilean priest tells the Spanish daily El País what Pope Francis said to him in their recent meeting:

“Juan Carlos, that you are gay does not matter. God made you like that and he loves you like that and I do not care. The Pope wants you like that, you have to be happy with who you are.”

Full Spanish text of the interview here. 

One of the Pope’s advisers, the well-known pro-LGBT American Jesuit, tweets out the news:

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Excitement abounds on Twitter:

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This is not a direct quote from the Pope, but a gay Catholic’s recollection of what the Pope told him. If Francis didn’t say this, then he should clarify. It sounds like something he would say. Therefore, if he doesn’t contradict Juan Carlos Cruz’s remarks, it seems reasonable to assume that he said them.

If Francis said this, then what is one to make of his remarks in light of this passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church?:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

As a theological matter, can God affirmatively will someone to be gay? To be “intrinsically disordered” in his sexual desire?

Perhaps the Pope is saying that God, in His infinite wisdom and with his permissive will, allowed Juan Carlos to be born with homosexual desire. There is no question that God loves all His creatures, including all of us sinners, but if the Pope has been accurately quoted here, then he is telling Juan Carlos that God affirms his homosexuality (God “loves you like that”). If the Pope means that God loves Juan Carlos despite these sinful passions, that’s undeniably true, according to Catholic theology. If the Pope is saying that God  affirms the goodness of homosexual desire, that is not remotely compatible with what the Catholic Church teaches, and with what Scripture makes clear.

How can the Roman pontiff not care about whether a man suffers from what the Catholic Church teaches is “grave depravity”? If the Pope means that Juan Carlos’s homosexuality is no barrier to his (the Pope’s) love for him, then God bless the Pope. But if the Pope means that homosexuality is a matter of moral indifference, then Catholics have a very serious theological problem on their hands with this Pope, who has just blown a hole into Catholic moral theology with regard to sexuality.

So: it is possible — if you squint and stretch and try your utmost — to read the Pope’s reported words in an orthodox Catholic way. But the plain meaning of them is far more plausible. This is the meaning that Father James Martin, reasonably enough, applies to them. This is the meaning that the world is going to take from them. And who can possibly blame the world?

If Juan Carlos Cruz has distorted or misunderstood what Francis said to him, then Francis has a grave obligation to clarify the public record. This is hugely important. If he follows his usual pattern, Francis will decline to do that, and allow the public sense of what the Church teaches to change, while maintaining plausible papal deniability. We’ll see.

What do cardinals and bishops of the Roman Catholic Church do when the Pope teaches something unambiguously contrary to authoritative Catholic teaching? Because that’s exactly what Francis has done here, if Juan Carlos Cruz is accurately transmitting Francis’s words.

Now, be careful: According to canon lawyer Cathy Caridi’s commentary on the meaning of “heresy” in canon law, that wouldn’t make Francis a heretic, strictly speaking. But still, if the Pope has said that homosexuality is morally neutral and/or willed by God, then that is a massive thing. As Father Martin correctly understands. On the single issue dividing Christian churches in our time more than any other, the Pope will have taken the side of the modernists and progressives, against 2,000 years of consistent Christian teaching based on the clear meaning of Holy Scripture.

A conservative Evangelical pastor friend of mine told me some time back that whatever his differences with the Roman church, he was grateful to be able to count on Rome being a solid rock on pressing questions of moral theology. Under Francis, he told me, he has come to believe that Rome cannot be counted on to hold the line. The rock is crumbling under repeated blows from the Bergoglian wrecking ball.