Jimmy was born in Texas, grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he entered the Catholic Church. His conversion story, “A Triumph and a Tragedy,” is published in Surprised by Truth. Besides being an author, Jimmy is the Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine, and a weekly guest on “Catholic Answers Live.”
The Italian newspaper La Repubblica is carrying a story about Pope Francis writing a letter to a group of homosexual Catholics.
The story has already been racing around the liberal blogosphere.
Here are 9 things to know and share . . .
1) Where can I read the letter?
You can’t. At least, not yet.
The content of the letter does not appear to have been made public at this point.
We only have a summary of the letter’s contents in the La Repubblica story, which you can read here (in Italian).
You can also read a translation into English here.
2) What kind of letter is it?
It appears to be just an ordinary, personal letter (albeit from the Pope).
It is not the kind of papal letter that is used to communicate doctrine or meditate on a pastoral issue.
From the way the story makes it sound, it may even just be a couple of lines—a personal note.
3) Who did Pope Francis write the letter to?
According to the story:
A letter was sent last June to the Pope from several Italian Catholic homosexuals, many of whose signatures were collected by the Kairos group in Florence, which is very active in this area.
In the letter, gays and lesbians asked Francis to be recognized as people and not as a “category”, asking for openness and dialogue from the Church, and reminding him that closure “always feeds homophobia”.
This was apparently not the first such letter that had been sent to a pope, but it was the first time a pope wrote back.
4) What did the Pope say in the letter?
According to the story:
Pope Francis wrote that “he appreciated very much what we had written to him, calling it a gesture of “spontaneous confidence”, as well as “the way in which we had written it.”
But not just that. “The Pope also assured us of his benedictory greeting.”
5) Anything else?
At least, not according to the story.
6) You mean that the Pope may have simply written something like, “Thank you for writing. I appreciate it very much as a cordial and spontaneous gesture of confidence in the bishop of Rome, and I impart to you the apostolic blessing”?
7) How did the Kairos people react?
“None of us could have imagined anything like this,” stated the Kairos representative, highlighting how, by contrast, the Archbishop of Florence, Giuseppe Betori, “always refused to even meet with us, claiming that if he did we would be legitimized as homosexuals.”
Now Pope Francis actually sends us his benediction, and who knows whether his subsequent remarks about homosexuals . . . might not actually be due to this exchange of letters.
8) This doesn’t seem like a particularly “big” story. Is this group just manipulating a brief papal note to its own ends?
You might very well think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.
9) Is there more to this story?
Not much, at least at this point.
Of course, the group could end up publishing the text of the papal letter, and it might have something of more interest in it.
What that might be, if anything, we can only guess. Given Pope Francis’s known pastoral approach, we probably would not expect fiery denunciations of homosexuality but a general invitation to walk together and follow the Lord ever more closely and experience the joy of the Christian Faith.
As his recent interviews have demonstrated, he wants to “lead positive” to put the gospel front and center, to show that he cares about people, and to trust that the reform of their moral lives will happen as they grow closer to Christ.
It would be particularly interesting to see how he phrases himself in a letter, where he has the opportunity to phrase things more carefully than in a live interview.
There could be something explosive in the letter, but at this point I rather doubt it.
If there were something significant, the Kairos group would have made that public.
Based on what is known right now, it sound to me more like a perfunctory, “Thank you and God bless you” note.
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In the meantime, what do you think?