VATICAN CITY —
Under normal circumstances, given the sexual morality at play in the Catholic Church, outing someone as actively gay is a death knell for career advancement. Vatican officials considering high-profile appointments often weigh whether someone is “ricattabile” — blackmailable.
But Francis said he investigated the allegations himself and found nothing to back them up. And that regardless, if someone is gay and repents, God not only forgives but forgets. Francis said everyone else should too. By calling out the blackmail for what it is, Francis may well have clipped the wings of an ugly but common practice at the Vatican.
Francis also made headlines with his call for the church to develop a new theology of women’s role, saying it’s not enough to have altar girls or a woman heading a Vatican department given the critical role that women have in helping the church grow.
While those comments topped the news from the 82-minute news conference, he revealed plenty of other insights that reinforce the idea that a very different papacy is underway.
—Annulments: He said the church’s judicial system of annulling marriages must be “looked at again” because church tribunals simply aren’t up to the task. That could be welcome news to many Catholics who often have to wait years for an annulment, the process by which the church determines that a marriage effectively never took place.
—Divorce and remarriage: He suggested an opening in church teaching which forbids a divorced and remarried Catholic from taking communion unless they get an annulment, saying: “This is a time for mercy.”
—Church governance: He said his decision to appoint eight cardinals to advise him was based on explicit requests from cardinals at the conclave that elected him who wanted “outsiders” — not Vatican officials — governing the church. Francis obliged, essentially creating a parallel government for the church alongside the Vatican bureaucracy: a pope and a cabinet of cardinals representing the church in each of the continents.