I do not know if the Pope actually said to a gay man, “God made you like this” and “be happy with who you are.” The Vatican, as usual, has refused to confirm or deny the claim. The Pope, as usual, has chosen not to come out and clarify his position. It would appear that this Pope is not too concerned about the confusion and moral chaos caused by his comments, or reported comments. That is a shame, because confusion and moral chaos are the great scourges of modern times.
In the interest of shedding a little bit of light into this fog, I think it must be stated firmly that the Pope’s alleged opinion on this matter is extremely false. Whatever his personal view, the fact is that God does not give people homosexual inclinations. To suggest otherwise is to claim one of two things:
1) Homosexual activity is not, in fact, sinful. It is just as good and natural as the embrace of a man and a woman. But this view is simply not accessible to a Christian who is even halfway serious about his faith. The Bible explicitly condemns homosexual activity (Romans 1:26, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Leviticus 18:22), defines marriage as a union between man and woman (Matthew 19:4), and singles out sodomy as one of the four sins that cries out to Heaven for vengeance (Genesis 17:20).
If we are trying to refashion a version of the faith that permits homosexuality, we will have to erase not only the teachings of St. Paul but also the words of the Father and the Son. In other words, we will have to call into question the wisdom and integrity of God Himself, which is to call into question His very existence.
2) The only other option for the “God made you gay” proponent is that the desire for homosexual sex is disordered, the act is a sin, but it is God who gives people this temptation. That would also mean that God destroyed the people of Sodom for being what He made them. Or, at least, he destroyed them for acting on the desires he gave them. Either way, God is turned into the source of man’s sinful nature. God is made into the tempter. God is the devil on our shoulder, whispering in our ear. God is the snake in the garden, giving Eve ideas. God tells man to act a certain way and then gives him the desire not to act in that way. God is a manipulative tyrant who sets us up for failure, and then damns us to Hell for acting according to the inclinations He gave us.
This view of God is not just wrong. It is blasphemous. It is also, of course, in direct contradiction to Scripture, which says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13). It is also illogical. If a certain act is disordered then the desire to commit the act must be disordered as well. But if the desire comes from God, it cannot be disordered. Indeed, in a moral context, “disordered” may be defined as “that which does not come from God.” So, it seems that “God makes people gay” must bring us back to option 1: the homosexual act is not sinful. But that invalidates Scripture, thus challenging the existence of the Biblical God. In an effort to be tolerant, we risk becoming atheists. Or, at best, deists.
We must therefore reject both of these claims and settle on the truth: God does not tempt. God does not give us disordered inclinations. God is not the one who causes us to desire sin. This is why the Catholic Church not only identifies the homosexual act as “grave depravity” but even the inclination as “objectively disordered.” That teaching of the Church, like all of its teachings, remains fully intact regardless of whatever opinion this Pope might personally hold.
So, what should we, as Christians, say to homosexuals? If we are not taking the Pope’s purported position, how then can we reach out to a gay person in love but without forfeiting truth? I think something like this would be a better approach:
“God made you. God loves you. He wants you to be united with Him for all eternity. Do not give in to your temptations or let them define you. You are not a gay man. You are a man. Your desire is not your identity. Keep fighting. Reach out to God for help in your struggle and He will come to your aid. You are not alone. Don’t give up. The pain will be worth it in the end, because your soul is worth it. You are a sinner, just as we are all sinners, and your job is the same job we have all been given: to love God, to serve Him, and to strive always for holiness.”
What is wrong with saying something like that? It is not alienating. It is not “judgmental.” It is not hateful or bigoted. It merely holds the person with same-sex attraction to the same standard to which we are all held. And it gives them the same hope of salvation that we are all given. It is a unifying and compassionate message. And best of all, it is true.