Bondings 2.0 reported yesterday on the question of why Catholic bishops did not respond more positively to Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” remarks in July. Recent comments by Poland’s leading Catholic figure are an example of how more positive speech about LGBT people in the papacy’s wake can and is inspiring hope for a new tone among LGBT Catholics.
Polskie Radio reports that Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, archbishop of Gniezno and primate of Poland, said the Church “will not turn its back on homosexuals” when asked about Pope Francis’ July statement on gay priests. Further, the radio station reports:
“Asked by Poland’s Rzeczpospolita daily whether the pope’s words had ‘started a revolution in the Church,’ Archbishop Kowalczyk said there was ‘nothing new’ in the pope’s comments.
“ ‘Homosexuality is a known phenomenon throughout history, both in the world and in the Church,’ he said.“
” ‘The Church will not turn its back on homosexuals. They are its members, as human beings, just like everyone else.’ “
“When asked what the Church’s stance would be if the government – which is currently divided on the issue – legalised civil partnerships, Archbishop Kowalczyk said that such a union would not be recognised by the Church as ‘a marriage.’
“However, he added that ‘it is the state’s job to regulate all that relates to matters of property and inheritance for people living together of the same sex.’ “
It is not an endorsement of marriage equality, but is equally far from the sometimes vitriolic language used by bishops when opposing LGBT equality in civil matters. One could even interpret the second part as favorable to civil unions, similar to Pope Francis’ position when he was archbishop in Argentina.
Meanwhile, a Catholic LGBT group in Poland called Faith and Rainbow released a letter to Pope Francis to thank him for encouraging acceptance of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. It says in part:
“We assure you, dear Holy Father, that within the Church, but also in front of its gates, there are many persons who have been waiting a long time for such words. Those persons often suffer fear, oppression, loneliness and rejection – and far too often, unfortunately, it is their own Church community that largely contributes to raising such feelings. The example of your gentle and clement attitude will surely help us to overcome the painful distrust or even clear hostility which we experience almost every day from our brothers and sisters in faith…
“We have been waiting a long time for some words of comfort and encouragement. Today we thank God for having heard them. These words give us confidence in the future. From now on, we will be waiting with new hope, until the hard times are over, like the biblical Flood. After a flood of intolerance, we look out for a rainbow of reconciliation, and we expect recognition of our rights in the future, when we no longer have to live in isolation and in fear of our neighbours. We hope that the days are coming when, equally with all other people, we can enjoy access to the great gift and sign of the God’s presence in the world – the unbelievable mystery of love.”
Earlier this year, Polish legislators voted down a marriage equality bill, even as some questioned the influence of the Polish Catholic Church on politics when the nation’s first transgender politician was elected. Echoing the hope expressed by Faith and Rainbow, perhaps it is time for the Polish Church to follow Pope Francis even further and, at the least, refrain from opposing LGBT equality in law.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry