I swear, I don’t know what to make of this pope’s words. Here is what he’s now saying about gay priests and religious:

“In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of affection. Therefore, the church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life.

“The ministry or the consecrated life is not his place.”

More:

Francis recalled that one time “I had a somewhat scandalized bishop here who told me that he had found out that in his diocese, a very large diocese, there were several homosexual priests and that he had to deal with all that, intervening, above all, in the formation process, to form a different group of clergy.”

“It’s a reality we can’t deny. There is no lack of cases in the consecrated life either. A religious told me that, on a canonical visit to one of the provinces in his congregation, he was surprised. He saw that there were good young students and even some already professed religious who were gay,” he said.

The Pope said that the religious “wondered if it were an issue and asked me if there was something wrong with that. Francis said he was told by one religious superior that the issue was not “that serious, it’s just an expression of an affection.”

“That’s a mistake,” Francis warned. “It’s not just an expression of an affection. In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of affection. Therefore, the Church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life. The ministry or the consecrated life is not his place.”

A pro-gay activist priest tries to spin this:

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That’s plainly wrong. How much clearer can you get than “the ministry or the consecrated life is not [the] place [for gays]”?

On the other hand, one can certainly understand Father Martin’s confusion. Francis has given every indication of liberalizing on homosexuality. He has promoted pro-gay cardinal and bishops, for instance. What does Francis really believe? His famous “who am I to judge?” comments in 2013 were made in reference to a question about a prominent priest accused of homosexual promiscuity. Here’s the full papal statement; emphases below are mine:

About Monsignor Ricca: I did what canon law calls for, that is a preliminary investigation. And from this investigation, there was nothing of what had been alleged. We did not find anything of that. This is the response. But I wish to add something else: I see that many times in the Church, over and above this case, but including this case, people search for “sins from youth”, for example, and then publish them. They are not crimes, right? Crimes are something different: the abuse of minors is a crime. No, sins. But if a person, whether it be a lay person, a priest or a religious sister, commits a sin and then converts, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we confess our sins and we truly say, “I have sinned in this”, the Lord forgets, and so we have no right not to forget, because otherwise we would run the risk of the Lord not forgetting our sins. That is a danger. This is important: a theology of sin. Many times I think of Saint Peter. He committed one of the worst sins, that is he denied Christ, and even with this sin they made him Pope. We have to think a great deal about that. But, returning to your question more concretely. In this case, I conducted the preliminary investigation and we didn’t find anything. This is the first question. Then, you spoke about the gay lobby. So much is written about the gay lobby. I still haven’t found anyone with an identity card in the Vatican with “gay” on it. They say there are some there. I believe that when you are dealing with such a person, you must distinguish between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of someone forming a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. This one is not good. If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a beautiful way, saying … wait a moment, how does it say it … it says: “no one should marginalize these people for this, they must be integrated into society”. The problem is not having this tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another, and there is this one and there is that one. The problem is in making a lobby of this tendency: a lobby of misers, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of masons, so many lobbies. For me, this is the greater problem. Thank you so much for asking this question. Many thanks.

Francis’s words here support Father Martin’s position, it seems to me. I don’t understand how the pope can say that homosexual desire itself is not a problem within the priesthood, but only understanding oneself as a gay priest, and acting on those desires. And now Francis says, “Therefore, the Church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life.”

Well, which is it? Has Francis’s thinking changed? Maintaining deep skepticism is the prudent response.

There has been some hesitancy among theologically conservative Catholics to make too much of this new statement by Francis, because it seems to run so counter to what he’s been doing. I think the one thing that everyone can agree on is that Francis’s teaching is characterized by the confusion it generates.

Watch what happens at the February meeting in Rome, when the bishops gather to talk about the response to sexual abuse. If they do not speak of homosexuality in the priesthood as a component of the crisis, that’s a good sign that this statement from Francis was designed to throw some red meat to the conservatives. If they do speak of it in a serious way, then we will look back on this new statement as a signal of the pope’s intentions.

The fact that many people on both sides of the argument are hesitant to embrace the pope’s words on their face, despite their clear Catholic orthodoxy, tells you something about papal credibility at this point.