|Cardinal Timothy Dolan|
It was a startling admission, because the clear implication is that if the pope himself is in no position to judge gay people's private morality, then neither is anyone who falls lower in the church's totem (and that would be literally everyone else).
Sensing a problem, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan was almost first to the microphone with a 'clarification' of what the pope's words really meant.
Had Francis struck a new note of tolerance and equivocation concerning gay Catholics, as many news outlets insisted? No, not at all, Dolan said. Speaking to CBS This Morning Dolan insisted that homosexuality is still a grave sin, despite the new pope's apparent reluctance to condemn it or to hear it condemned.
Apparently speaking for God, Dolan said, "We've got ... two points of church teaching," Dolan said Tuesday. 'One would be the immorality, in God's view, of any sexual expression outside of a man and woman in lifelong marriage. ...The other point of church teaching is that a person's identity, respect, the dignity and love that he or she deserves does not depend on anything -- sexual orientation, how much money we've got, if we've got a green card ... does not depend on anything other than the fact that we're a child of God, made in his image.'
Dolan's cold water to the face clarification reassured disgruntled conservatives, who privately grouse about Francis' headline grabbing pronouncements. The cardinal's clarification also recalled an earlier one, where despite what Pope Francis said in a homily in May about the Lord redeeming all of us, a Vatican spokesman insisted that atheists were still not off the hook.
But the optics speak for themselves. Why was Dolan on the talk shows if something had not changed?
Dolan has never been afraid to condemn the gay community, having in recent months called for prayer, fasting and personal sacrifice from the faithful in the hope of keeping same sex couples from enjoying the same rights as other married couples.
Adulterers, divorcees, unmarried couples, single parents and the childless are not subjected to this kind of spiritual hose down it appears that gays are held in special contempt by some conservative church leaders.
Earlier this year Joseph Amodeo, a board member of Catholic Charities, told The Associated Press that he quit the organization's junior board after Archbishop Dolan failed to respond to a 'call for help' from the nonprofit Ali Forney Center that offers emergency services to homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people in New York City. (Of the nation's homeless youths, a disproportionately high 40 percent are LGBT, studies show).
'Neither I nor anyone in the Church would ever tolerate hatred of or prejudice towards any of the Lord's children,' wrote Dolan in a letter to the Center, taking offense at the suggestion that the church's hostile attitude to gays could contribute to the 'marginalization' the pope warned of.
Dolan seems intent on holding the line no matter what the pope says. That line is the same old story dressed up in conciliatory rhetoric. “Judge not lest you be judged” from Matthew does not seem to have impacted the good Cardinal who speaks for God.