The Advocate announced Pope Francis as its “Person of the Year” last week, prompting celebration from some quarters and harsh criticism from others. The magazine responded in a column rounding-up reactions, both positive and negative, from the diverse voices who have weighed in on its decision. Citing the international media coverage and responses from faith leaders, media personalities, LGBT advocates, conservative pundits, and assorted others, the editors note:
“We knew that naming Pope Francis The Advocate‘s Person of the Year would spark conversation both within and outside our readership. And judging by the international discussion we’ve seen since the pick was announced on Monday, that’s exactly what the decision did.”
Of the positive reactions, The Advocate highlighted a few people including Jesuit Fr. James Martin who said on MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell Show:
” ‘He’s drawing people to the Church, more importantly, he’s drawing people to God…I think it’s fantastic. And if The Advocate puts him on the cover, and Time magazine, if that draws more people to him and to God, great.’ “
Evan Hurst, associate director of Truth Wins Out, called it the right choice because a tone has shifted, even if doctrine has not. He points out:
” ‘And in this case, the tone perhaps matters the most…The doctrine hasn’t changed, but the leading anti-gay Catholic voices in the West are now playing defense….For the first time in many, many years, the head of the Catholic Church is a man who seems to most people, Catholic or non-, to be an all around good guy who wants to lead the Church away from being known primarily as an anti-gay, anti-woman institution.’ “
The Advocate also highlighted those more critical of The Advocate’s selection of Pope Francis. Surprisingly, two groups that are usually opposed to one another–LGBT advocates and conservative religious and political leaders (including Rush Limbaugh)–found common ground in their disapproval of the magazine’s choice. Some in the LGBT press called the choice “a mistake” and ” a deeply silly choice.” Michaelangelo Signorile, editor at The Huffington Post’s Gay Voices section, went so far as to call it “idiotic,” writing:
” ‘But mostly, this was idiotic…Pope Francis is a lot of things to many people in the world. But he is not our hero of the LGBT community in 2013. Can we please get a grip, folks? Are we that starved for validation? ‘ “
In a tacit acknowledgement by The Advocate that, despite Pope Francis’ outreach, not all is well in the Catholic Church, the magazine also released “9 Catholics Who Need to Listen to the Pope.” Topping the list were Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the New York, the Knights of Columbus, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They also included Catholic school administrators who have fired LGBT educators at an alarming rate this year, including recent incidents near Philadelphia and Seattle.
One last note is that Pope Francis made The New Yorker‘s “Top Ten Gay-Rights Heroes of 2013” as well, with the magazine writing of the pope in their number two spot:
“In July, when a reporter asked Pope Francis about allegations of a ‘gay lobby’ inside the Vatican, his straightforward answer, with the five words that made headlines around the world—’Who am I to judge?’—was what gay Catholics, and many others, had long been waiting to hear. While the Church has not formally shifted any of its positions on homosexuality, and it remains to be seen whether Catholic institutions will become more welcoming toward gays and lesbians… the new Pope’s language was a stark departure from that of earlier Catholic leaders, who characterized homosexuality as morally wrong and often evil. It is clear that Francis has decided to set a different tone…”
As 2013 draws to a close, and Pope Francis continues receiving accolades from Catholics and others worldwide, the coming year’s challenge will be whether his change of tone can be translated into concrete, lasting actions in the global and local communities.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry