Famed performer Elton John called Pope Francis a “hero” in a recent interview, but that opinion is not universally held by pop musicians in the British Isles. In the same week, Irish musician Hozier harshly criticized the pope for poor treatment of LGBT issues.
John, who is gay and married, expressed admiration for the pope’s efforts towards LGBT inclusion during a BBC Radio program. Saying he would love to meet Francis, John explained per the Catholic Herald,
“I’m not a Catholic but from the first day he was elected he tried to bring a new message and change the Church and bring it into the 21st century. To be a inclusive Church. He has brought hope and change.”
John mentioned that Pope Francis was “fighting an uphill battle”against conservative bishops, particularly from Africa, who seek to condemn same-gender relationships. Saying Francis is an “ally” to more progressive wings in the church, the performer sent a message to the pope:
“Keep going, keep pushing it. Change is very hard, especially in the Catholic Church, you don’t get things done immediately, you’re not going to persuade people, just keep going and keep going and eventually the wall will fall. I think he’s on our side.”
The musician said the Catholic Church has “an irrational aversion to homosexuality. . .[that] provides an excuse for homophobia.”
While Pope Francis’ more inclusive tone is positive, Hozier said there is a difference “between lip service towards something and actually making change.” The pontiff’s famous “Who am I to judge?” remark “should have been said 100 years ago.”
This is not the first time Elton John has praised the pope, or that Hozier criticized the church. John called Pope Francis a “hero” a year ago during a benefit concert for his HIV/AIDS foundation and has previously said he is “excited” about the pope’s new approach to church. As for Hozier, his single “Take Me to Church” directly criticizes homophobia. In the song, according to Mother Jones, “Liturgical language is weaved into the lyrics but turns church dogma on its head—it is used to describe a lover” and celebrates sexuality.
Calling Pope Francis a “hero” for LGBT communities may be a stretch, but it seems insufficient to suggest all the pope has done is pay lip service to greater inclusion. The truth is somewhere in between, and the real significance of these stories may be that celebrities keep pontificating on the Catholic papacy at all.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry