The Conclave of 115 cardinal electors has begun, and profiles of papabile abound reviewing old records and future visions of those rumored to be candidates for the next pope. LGBT issues hold a central place when commentators reflect on each front runner’s strengths and weaknesses, signalling a changing consciousness in the Church.
Pink News, a European-based LGBT news outlet, profiled the varied elements in the legacies of leading cardinals. For instance, they note Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet has been a strong opponent of LGBT rights, but who also once surprised the LGBT world:
“In 2005, he declared that the Catholic Church in Quebec would not baptise the babies of gay couples, despite baptism being a requirement of Catholic canon law.
“In 2007, he wrote an unexpected apology on behalf of the Catholic Church in which he wrote ‘humbly ask[ed] forgiveness’ for historic attitudes which had allowed for discrimination against gay people.
“This was largely dismissed by gay rights campaigners. Activist Laurent McCutcheon said the apology did nothing to make up for Cardinal Ouellet’s long opposition to same-sex marriage, or his ‘disparaging and hurtful’ comments about gay people.”
As for Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Archbishop of Milan, Pink News reports:
“Cardinal Scola is known as a scholar of human sexuality, having written extensively on the subject of the divine source of the ‘complementary nature of the two sexes’.
“Perhaps unsurprisingly, his views on gay partnerships are that ‘Italy needs families based on the marriage of one man and one woman.’
“He is, at least, open to debate: ‘I can propose my beliefs, you propose yours,’ he said at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart last year. ‘Then we find out what the prevalent opinion is.’
“In 2012, Cardinal Scola surprised activists by allowing Catholic LGBT group Gionata to hold a prayer vigil for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), which was able to take place in Milan for the first time.”
Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana is touted as a very real possibility, coming out of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, but his record on LGBT is one that denies condoms to help stymie HIV in Africa and, reportedly, he speaks favorably of “Kill the Gays” legislation in Uganda.
Resigned Catholic priest, Tony Adams, in the South Florida Gay News, shudders at the prospect of Cardinal Turkson’s election, while at the same time commenting on those papabile who would be better, though likely not good, on LGBT issues:
“Turkson sees cultural issues in primary and sometimes false colors. He confuses pedophilia and homosexuality which he thinks does not exist in Africa as it does elsewhere. If the cardinals elect a naïve soul like Turkson, they will be doing him a great disservice. He will be eaten alive.”
Adams’ top five listing of gay-friendly papabile is Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Argentina, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of Italy, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria. Of this last prospect, he writes that this cardinal “walks the line between honoring real Christian love and traditional Catholic teachings.” Adams points to a YouTube interview as evidence of Schonborn’s mixed record:
“There are many discussions about the reasons of same-sex attractions…One thing is certain, there is a great desire a great need of friendship. My experience is that if a person with same-sex attraction discovers true friendship this can be a real way out, a real way out of a situation that is very often a dramatic destruction of the person…there are some movements that foster the discovery of true friendship to overcome a gay lifestyle that is finally humanly, spiritually destructive.”
Few developments will emerge from the conclave until a new pope is presented to the world, but as rumors and rhetoric around the papabile swirls, it is essential that LGBT advocates maintain perspective. Eugene Cullen Kennedy writes in National Catholic Reporter:
“[The real church of ‘the faithful’] are so busy living their faith that, though they hope for the best, they are essentially uninvolved in papal politics or even in who will be elected pope or, for that matter, who their bishops are and what they may say in the letters read at Sunday Masses. These Catholics love their priests because, despite the sex abuse scandals, they have known too many good ones to be totally dismayed at the failures of some troubled ones and, despite the financial and sexual scandals, they keep supporting the church that understands, at its best moments, their suffering and longing, their hopes and their disappointments, and helps them, if they fall one way or other, to get up and keep going. These are the people who live in favor of life, who prize and nourish it and understand that religion does not pose implausible riddles to them but celebrates and supports them through the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, the great and gripping mystery, that is life itself.”
Whomever emerges after the white smoke and bells will be faced with a Church that must confront LGBT issues, internally and in conversation with the world. Let us never forget though, that the pope is only one person and the hierarchy are only several thousand among more than a billion Catholics living their faith as the People of God.
-Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry