I often like to believe that karma is actually a thing. What goes around comes around. He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. Pick your cliché. Some of my favourite instances come by way of publicity and how stories are perceived. In this age of the Internet, news spreads almost instantaneously. Due to this, everyone who missed the first scoop essentially rehashes the initial release and blasts it across cyberspace with their own branding. As a result of the hurried nature of it all, key points can be lost in the jumble. Stories can be corrected, but sometimes whether it’s due to the parties involved or the news outlet responsible, they aren’t.
To illustrate the point are two closely related stories; stay with me. Recently, the Catholic Church once again found itself under fire. The latest scandal to break from the Vatican? Stripping a priest of his duties following his announcement that he is gay and has a male partner.
Krzysztof Charamsa, an official in the doctrine office of the Vatican, came out publicly to several papers, including the Italian publication Corriere della Sera: “I want the Church and my community to know who I am: a gay priest who is happy, and proud of his identity. I’m prepared to pay the consequences, but it’s time the Church opened its eyes, and realized that offering gay believers total abstinence from a life of love is inhuman.”
To no one’s surprise, sensational headlines such as “Vatican fires priest after he announces he’s gay,” and “Vatican priest comes out, says he has boyfriend, is promptly fired,” were quick to catch people’s attention. Strong criticism of the action was quick to follow.
What the headlines don’t say, however, and what most stories—if they include the fact at all—hide in a line or two is that this was no knee-jerk reaction. This wasn’t the Vatican making a sudden ruling on a brand new situation. This was something Charamsa knew would happen. It was also something that had absolutely nothing to do with him being gay.
Catholic priests are celibate. They are forbidden from having a romantic partner. This is information that every priest is well aware of, and it’s something most have known their whole life. Though the fact that Charamsa is gay undoubtedly raised the profile of the situation, he still would be out of a job even if he were straight.
But don’t feel too badly for the Catholic Church and how that important nugget of info has so easily been overlooked. It is a two-way street after all. What perhaps mitigates Charamsa’s story ever so slightly, even to those who are unaware of a priest’s vows, is that Pope Francis’ popularity has been riding fairly high ever since he assumed the position, which leads us into story number two. He’s often seen as a progressive pope. When it comes to talking about why exactly he’s so superior to his predecessor, Benedict, most say that it’s because Francis has a better stance in regard to homosexuality.
His “progressive” moment came just over two years ago when he was quoted as saying: “When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem…they’re our brothers.”
That was it. He didn’t say he supports gay marriage. He didn’t say homosexual intercourse is acceptable. If you really break it down, he merely acknowledged the fact that homosexuals are people. One could further break down his words, “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill,” as him referring specifically to those who are Christian and already understand that they’re to be celibate for life. But that’s even more semantics.
The point of it all is that at no time has Pope Francis spoken up to clarify his statements. Yes, he routinely talks about how marriage should be a heterosexual union, but it’s never explicitly noted that a homosexual one is sinful and wrong according to the Catholic Church. It’s a convenient lie of omission that seems to have the Vatican out of the surge of unpopularity Benedict lead them on. It’s social suicide to be against an issue so blatantly clear as the acceptance of homosexuality, and Francis and his PR team have managed to finagle themselves into a position of safety without having to actually say anything. In fact, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, 38 per cent of US Catholics believe the Francis supports gay and lesbian marriage. How better to hoodwink the world when your own flock is fooled?
And all of this somehow comes back to my initial point. Neither of these stories have any information that is new or shocking. Catholicism has always said that priests must be celibate; Charamsa knew what the consequences of his actions would be. As for Francis, how is it groundbreaking that he said he’d treat a homosexual like a human being? For anyone, let alone a Christian, isn’t that simply a given?
Stories can be made fantastic and eye-catching by leaving out a few key points or putting the focus on something else. In everything we do, we must be vigilant to step back and see the whole picture, lest we become just another of the angry mob yelling about an issue we know nothing about.