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Sunday, September 22, 2019

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Pope Francis stresses love and healing over condemnation

Pope Francis stresses love and healing over condemnation

Shortly after the November elections, the pastoral ministers in Terrebonne Parish had a meeting to discuss various topics. One issue that came up was the votes in three different states that favored Gay Marriages. I commented that maybe we should reexamine our strategy regarding the Church’s open opposition to secular marriages by gay and lesbian couples.

My point was: we are losing the battle since ever more people agree that these committed couples should have the same legal rights that we afford to traditional heterosexual couples. This would not affect the Church’s stance but would only apply to civil marriages.

The important pastoral point I was trying to make is that the Church was alienating the gay and lesbian community by failing to reach out and welcome them.

Jesus welcomed the outcast of his day: the tax collectors, prostitutes, and others. We are not following Jesus’ example.

The reaction to my suggestion was strong and swift. Several of my fellow clergy condemned me for thinking this way. Thank goodness Pope Francis has come to my rescue.

In his interview published last week in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide, the Pope called the church’s focus on abortion, gay marriage and contraception narrow and said it was driving people away. He said the church should instead act like a “field hospital after battle,” to “heal wounds and to warm the hearts” of people so they feel welcome in the church.

Pope Francis also said that when homosexuals told him they were always condemned by the church and felt “socially wounded,” he told them “the church does not want to do this.”

He restated his comments that he first made on the plane returning from Brazil in July that he was not able to judge gays who are of good will and in search of God. The Pope declared that we should stress love over condemnation. “God is in everyone’s life,” he said.

On another subject, I am sure everyone is aware that Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Shelton Fabre as the 4th Bishop of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. He will be installed on October 30, five days after his 50th birthday.

This New Roads native came from a humble background. His appointment as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the vicar general and moderator of the curia has not changed him. His friends say he still has a “lovable” shyness yet open to people and listens to them.

I had the privilege of meeting Bishop Fabre years ago when he was the pastor of a church in Baton Rouge where I was performing a wedding. He was most gracious in welcoming me, and made me feel at home in his rectory.

We can get some hints of his mode of operation by his statement issued at the press conference.

“I look forward to getting to know in a more direct way the people of this diocese as we together strive to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in so many ways here in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. Your faith and the presence of the Church in this area are rooted in a rich history, which bring forward into the present though your faith and service all the mercies and graces of God that sustain us today, and allow us to face a future filled with hope in God’s providential love and promises.

“My brothers and sisters, I look forward to serving you and growing in faith with you. Thank you for your faith and dedication!

“Please know that I am deeply grateful to each of you for all that you do, and I look forward to our ministering together for the Lord.”

He wants to work with us to build God’s Kingdom here in the Houma-Thibodaux area.