There has been much talk about Pope Francis’ re-framing of LGBT issues in the church, often spoken about with the hope that the new pontiff will usher in a new era of dialogue in this area.
One of the more hopeful signs of such a possibility came last month from one of the most outspoken critics of marriage equality in the U.S. Catholic hiearchy. San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who also serves as the chair of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference Sub-Committee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, gave an interview with public radio’s KQED station in the Bay Area, in which he expressed how important it is to dialogue with lesbian and gay people.
In the interview, he talked about having conversations with gay and lesbian Catholics at Most Holy Redeemer parish, in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood. The reporter who conducted the interview blogged about the encounter:
“ ‘When we don’t interact with each other, we can make decisions or get images based on stereotypes – that happens on both sides,’ the archbishop said.
“When asked what he’s learned from those interactions, Cordileone said he’s come to understand how gay people have ‘suffered.’
“ ‘They’ve been disowned by their families,’ he said. ‘They’ve been harmed and they want to come to a place that will accept them for who they are. And affirm them. So it tenderizes us.’ “
You can watch the entire interview below or by clicking here:
Although the reporter speculates that Cordileone is only using softer rhetoric, I think that the change is significant. A year ago, we would not have heard such a phrase as “tenderizes us” coming from this prelate who is known as a staunch conservative culture warrior. The fact that he acknowledge that a personal encounter can affect one’s attitude is indeed significant. I think it also indicates that he realized he has not been as tender as he could have tried to be.
A Bay Area Reporter article about Pope Francis’ recent decision to remove a Vatican cardinal from an influential post touched on Cordileone’s remarks in the KQED interview:
“Michael Poma, parish business manager at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the Castro, confirmed that the archbishop twice attended the parish’s Wednesday night suppers, which is an outreach to the neighborhood’s homeless LGBT community. The soup kitchen is located underneath the parish sanctuary in Ellard Hall.
” ‘His first visit was September 18,’ Poma said in an email. ‘The visit went well as I saw it. I found him to be eager to work and happy to be there to meet people. I felt at ease enough to joke with him and tease him about not getting enough of a good thing when he came back the second time. All in all, I liked him and I feel he really liked what we’re doing here at Most Holy Redeemer.’ “
The article also quotes Dignity/San Francisco’s secretary, Ernest Camisa, who also saw some good coming from Cordileone’s remarks:
“. . . Camisa applauded Cordileone’s newfound empathy – ‘being tenderized by the reality of the people and the circumstances that he finds himself in,’ Camisa explained.
” ‘I hope in the end [Cordileone] will see that what he stood for in past years was unreasonable and heartless,’ added Camisa.”
Such steps may not be the more positive ones for which many of us still hope, and work, and pray, but I think these small moves forward still need to be noticed as indications that some things, like the attitudes and perceptions of bishops, are indeed changing in the Church.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry