Pope Francis on Friday opted for no change in the Catholic approach to homosexuality but signaled a more open stance on cohabiting and divorced believers under new Church guidelines on family life. In his 260-page “Apostolic Exhortation,” a long-awaited document which is likely to disappoint advocates of more radical change, Francis strongly reiterates the Church’s opposition to the legal recognition of gay relationships. He notes that bishops who reviewed Catholic teaching on the question at synods in 2014 and 2015 had observed that “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
However, it would seem that the Church’s official position on bishop-altar boy relationships has also suffered significant modifications. According to the pontiff, “it was determined that a significant number of altar boys who have reported being sexually molested by bishops in the past two years were either lying or have provoked sexual acts with their flirty behavior.” The Pope also stated that bishops “can’t be blamed” if a young altar boy were to lead them on, have their way with them, “and then claim that he was innocent.” “That’s not fair to the bishops. After all, they are only human,” he added.
“It is one thing to intentionally go after altar boys because of a disease or lack of inhibition,” Francis said Friday. “That’s something deviant and deserves to be condemned and punished. But, when you have a situation in which altar boys falsely accuse bishops of rape, when in fact they asked for it, that’s something different. However, regardless of the reasons for these incidents, we must concentrate on the big picture here. And that big picture is telling us that more and more altar boys are voluntarily entering intimate relationships with bishops. And as gruesome as that might sound, it is their own prerogative. That is why the Church has had to take that into consideration.”
He continued, “Therefore, in the interest of protecting both of these servants of God, it has been decided that a more open stance must also be introduced when it comes to these willing relationships. That is, if they are to be kept in check. But, we shouldn’t equalize this with same-sex marriage. A marriage is one thing, a relationship is something else. Especially a relationship that involves church personnel. That is why it has been decided that bishop-altar boy relationships will be allowed, provided they are kept silent and discreet. For, we must be forgiving and understanding to our fellow servants. If we are not, who else is left there to be?”