Her pastor was a friend of mine. I doubted he believed that God proactively willed that this woman would be abused. I called him and asked him if he'd said that.
"No," he told me. "She said that. I sat there quietly listening, trying to decide what I should say next. But before I got a chance, the conversation ended."
I thought of that woman and her pastor when I read that a Chilean, Juan Carlos Cruz, told the Spanish newspaper El Pais that Pope Francis said that God had made him gay.
After being reported in the media, what the pope might have said has become the subject of speculation, of misapplication, of misunderstanding, and criticism.
It must be said that God loves each one of us. God is love. He created us in love, and sustains us in love. God reveals truth to us - truth about ourselves, and about his plan for us - because he loves us.
The Church teaches that same-sex attraction is a "disordered" inclination, which distorts God's plan for our sexuality. Disordered inclinations come from the disordering effects of Adam's fall - same-sex attraction is not a choice, it may even have genetic components, but it is not consistent with God's positive will for the experience or expression of our sexuality.
God gives us the grace to bear our crosses, he permits that they exist and that we carry them, and through Christ, he transforms us in holiness as we carry our crosses. But it would be a cruel God who actively imposed on us the suffering that comes from disorder. And God is not cruel.
It is not immoral to experience same-sex attraction, which, the Church recognizes, often constitutes a "trial"- a cross. But all people, no matter their attractions, are called to express their sexuality in accord with the teaching of the Church, and with the virtue of chastity.
There is every reason to believe that Pope Francis knows those things and believes them. He teaches them, in fact, with regularity. While we don't know what Pope Francis said in a private, pastoral moment, it is unfair to presume that he would willfully give counsel that contravenes the teachings of the Church.
What Pope Francis said might have been misreported, or it might have been accurately reported in its entirety. But it's most likely that, in the difficulty of a pastoral moment, what the pope said, or attempted to say, was somehow unclear, confused, or misunderstood.
We may not know what the pope said, or didn't say. He may choose to clarify it, or it may continue to be the subject of speculation. But from Catholics, at least, the pope deserves the benefit of the doubt, with some understanding for the challenge of teaching complex theological concepts in intimate pastoral moments, and understanding for the challenge of receiving and comprehending those concepts.
In a private meeting with a man who carries many crosses, including some imposed by abuse at the hands of a priest, the pope gave a reminder of God's love, and of the Church's love. Beyond that, we are unlikely to be sure what was said. But in charity, we should presume the best of the pope, and pray for him, for Mr. Cruz, and for all those who might doubt the Lord's love, or ask the oft-unanswerable question: "Why?"
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This commentary reflects the opinions of the author, and does not necessarily reflect an editorial position of Catholic News Agency.