In a lengthy article in America magazine, Jeusit Fr. John Langan, Cardinal Bernardin professor of Social Thought at Georgetown University, attempts to discern what Pope Francis is really getting at in his comments about homosexuality. He criticizes the strictly rationalist approach that has characterized the church's approach stance on homosexuality for centuries.
"It is unlikely," says Langan, " that lasting good can come out of any stance on human affairs that in effect says, 'We know what we know; what we don’t know is not worth learning about; and what contradicts what we think we know is not worth thinking about.'"
What's needed, he thinks, is " a time of critical reflection on the tradition to clarify what strengths are to be preserved and what continuities are to be affirmed even while searching for the sources of limitations in the teaching and acknowledging the development of new questions and problems. Critical reflection also needs to be directed to public opinion and to those who would mold it in a new direction, who often harbor naïve, incoherent and immature views, even while they think of themselves as knowledgeable and progressive..."
Out of this Langan predicts a "new stance on the subject of homosexuality "that will open up possibilities for affirming the human dignity of homosexuals. It should also acknowledge their need for an appropriate form of pastoral ministry and should affirm a continuity of key values in a greatly changed social situation. For instance, the traditional teaching and practice of the church has presented faithfulness and fruitfulness as two of the great goods closely connected with sexual activity. Critics of homosexual practice have been honestly unable to see the continuing place for these values in same-sex unions. The desire of some homosexuals to adopt children as well as the desire of many homosexuals to enter into permanent unions can be seen as evidence of the power and attractiveness of these traditional values, even if they are being achieved in previously unacceptable ways."