A CNN news report yesterday said that Pope Francis stated that he believes there is a a “gay lobby” working inside the Vatican. According to the report:
“ ‘In the Curia,’ Francis said, referring to Catholicism’s central bureaucracy, ‘there are holy people. But there is also a stream of corruption.’
“ ‘The “gay lobby” is mentioned, and it is true, it is there,’ Francis continued. ‘We need to see what we can do.’ ”
His remark was made during a meeting with the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious Men and Women, the head Catholic communities of men and women religious.
The announcement was all the more intriguing because at the time of Benedict XVI’s resignation, there were reports based on rumors that a “gay lobby” may have played some role in his decision to leave the papal office.
Such an announcement by the pope is both puzzling and a bit irresponsible. As Rocco Palmo, who blogs at whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com, stated in the CNN report:
“We don’t have any explanation of what ‘gay lobby’ means.”
Because the term is so undefined and because the pope did not expand on the claim, he has left a great deal of opportunity for people to speculate and imagine all sorts of plots, intrigue, and machinations.
Of course, I certainly believe that gay men and lesbian women work in the Vatican, as they do at all levels of the church, and in all segments of society. Are they plotting together in some way to harm the church? I doubt it. That sort of idea works only in Dan Brown novels. Are there some gay men there who may not have the best motivations for church work? Certainly, just as there are plenty of heterosexual men in the church who are similarly impaired. We’re human. All of us: gay and straight.
There are several lessons that can be learned from the pope’s statement:
1) Most importantly, no such rumors would have any affect if the leaders at the Vatican would have a more open view toward homosexuality. As long as church leaders continue to deny LGBT people their equal dignity, they will continue to manufacture them as “bogey-men” who lurk in the shadows. The fact that a 2005 Vatican document strongly discouraged gay men from being ordained guaranteed that gay men who wanted to be ordained would have to deny their sexuality, thus leading to unhealthy personalities.
2) The pope needs to learn more about homosexuality and the reality of gay and lesbian lives. Let’s suppose for a moment that indeed there is a group of gay men in the Vatican who have formed a “lobby” together to advance an agenda. Are there no other such “lobbies” in the Vatican? Of course, there are. So, then, why does Pope Francis label this “gay lobby” as “a stream of corruption?” Such a statement reveals a homophobic attitude that is not worthy of such a world leader, let alone a religious figure.
3) While Pope Francis has endeared himself to the world by speaking frankly and off the cuff many times, an example such as this shows the downside of such a style. The fact that he made an allusion to the existence of such a group without providing any details or evidence is a very harmful thing to do. It allows speculation, and worse, vilification of gay people. It portrays them as duplicitous, deceptive, conniving–all vicious stereotypes. The power and attention that any statement of the pope receives means that he needs to be careful about promoting such harmful untruths.
4) Finally, this incident reminds us all how much the Catholic Church needs a full and open dialogue about LGBT people. As long as our leaders continue to operate with blinders about LGBT issues, they will continue to harm not only LGBT people, but the entire church, by their ignorance of an important part of human reality.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry