A reporter asked Pope Francis last summer a question about the status of gay priests in the church. While his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI had characterized homosexuality as “an intrinsic moral evil,” Pope Francis answered: “Who am I to judge them?”
His attitude reflects a time of renewal and openness in the Catholic Church, says Sébastien Froidevaux, director of the Fondation du Grand Séminaire de Montréal.
“We are present, available, we listen,” Froidevaux says. “This is the vision of a priest who is close to the people and not an authority who judges.”
The role of the foundation is to raise funds for the training of priests at the Grand Séminaire de Montréal. Mgr Christian Lépine, archbishop of Montreal will lead a special mass on Friday, September 26 at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, attended by 14 bishops from around Quebec.
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“We want to show the church as it is today. It will be a joyful celebration.”
The church has been devastated by reports of child abuse and the failure of authorities to protect the victims.
“May the Lord give me health,” says Rev. Pierre Rivard, parish priest of St. Esprit in Rosemount. “There is no one to replace me.”
When he entered the seminary in 1966, he recalls there were 210 fellow students. “Now there are 24 seminarists and my helper is 78.”
He says the scandals made him profoundly sad, but he never considered leaving the priesthood, which he maintains is a calling. He was excited by the changes in liturgy in the early 60’s, which aim less to condemn and more to include.
“I said I will be a priest in a new world. It will be fun. It will be open. But it did not happen that way. People my age left the church and never came back.”
“The Quiet Revolution (when an entire generation of Quebecers left the church) is not finished,” Rivard says. “We are passing through the angry part of it. People are angry when they look at the past, angry at the Church. … The power of the Church was too strong until the end of the ’50s here in Quebec. People were always feeling guilty of something. There was sin everywhere. People wanted to be free.”
On the use of birth control and inclusion of same-sex families, he says, “The official language would say no, but the reality is there, so I think we have to look at the reality.”
Echoing Pope Francis, Rivard says he would not condemn a woman who had an abortion. “There is always a reason a person acts as he does. It is not for me to say.”
On the role of women in the church, he also echoes Pope Francis, who said in regard to the ordination of women, “that door is closed.”
Rivard says, “I have no problem with women having real responsibility. Men and women have different ways of being responsible in a congregation or community or church.” Comparing the male priest’s authority with a father’s and a woman’s role to that of a mother’s, Rivard says those responsibilities could include “being with sick people, teaching and social work.”
“Giving communion is not the most important power in the church,” Rivard says. “It is to meet people, to speak with them, to teach them the word of God.”
He says that even though it is not perfect, the Church has a love for humanity. “We have to rebuild the confidence of people. It was cut off with all the problems we had, but I think we will pass through that. We don’t have all the answers, we have to help people find the answers they have inside them.”
The Mass in Celebration of the FGSM’s 30th anniversary will take place at 7:30pm on Sept. 26 at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, 1085 rue de la Cathédrale. Info: 514-925-0005 or fgsm.org