Pope Francis’ Negative Rhetoric Begins to Be Echoed Around the Globe

By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 21, 2016

On Bondings 2.0, we often report on the way that Pope Francis’ positive approach to LGBT issues is affecting the way that bishops around the world have been speaking about such topics.  An article on Crux, however, tells an opposite story: that Pope Francis’ negative comments about “gender theory” and “ideological colonization” are encouraging bishops around the globe to speak similarly when marriage equality or transgender rights are discussed.

Reporter Inés San Martin looked at examples of bishops’ statements coming from Colombia, Mexico, and Spain to make the case that the pope’s ideas about gender are taking root in episcopal discourse.

Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez

In Colombia, Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez of Bogota and Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, the papal envoy to that nation, have recently protested the revision of school textbooks which will include discussions of  gender identity, sexual orientation, and LGBT parenting.  Salazar’s rhetoric closely echoes statements by Pope Francis:

“ ‘We reject the implementation of gender ideology in the Colombian education, because it’s a destructive ideology, [it] destroys the human being, taking away its fundamental principle of the complementary relationship between man and woman,’ Salazar said.

“The cardinal also said that the Church respects people with a different sexual orientation, and that as an institution it’s looking for constant opportunities for dialogue.

“ ‘Individual rights can’t go against the rights of the community,’ Salazar said. ‘What we need to accomplish is a deep respect of everyone without the imposition of ideologies.’ “

(As an aside, I would be very interested in knowing what opportunities for dialogue the cardinal seeks.  It would seem that discussing the new textbook revisions with LGBT people and with the people who are supporting the changes would be an ideal opportunity for dialogue.  It makes one wonder why he has not done so.)

The efforts of the churchmen were successful.  According to the news article:

‘The cardinal, together with the papal envoy in the country, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, met with president Santos and Parody the day after the rally. Soon after their meeting, the president said in a press conference that the country had no intention of promoting gender ideology, and promised the textbooks would be re-written.’

Cardinal José Francisco Robles

In Mexico, where marriage equality is currently an issue of national debate, Cardinal José Francisco Robles of Guadalajara, who is also president of the nation’s bishops’ conference, has also used Pope Francis’ concept of “gender ideology” to bolster opposition to the proposed federal law.  Robles stated:

“The future of humanity is played in marriage and the natural family is formed by a heterosexual couple.

“The proliferation of the mentality of gender ideology moves with a flag of acceptance, promoting the values of diversity and non-discrimination, but it denies the natural reciprocity between a man and a woman.”

Bishop Demetrio Fernandez

The example from Spain concerns remarks made by  Bishop Demetrio Fernandez in opposition to a proposed law which would criminalize hate speech against LGBT people.  Fernandez called the proposed law “an attack on religious freedom and freedom of conscience.”  In a later interview, he strongly echoed what are probably the harshest language Pope Francis has used to discuss an LGBT topic.  In an interview, the pontiff compared gender theory to nuclear arms. Fernandez statement echoing this metaphor is:

“[G]ender ideology is an atomic bomb that wants to destroy Catholic doctrine, the image of God in man, and the image of God the Creator.”

It is definitely disturbing that bishops are echoing the pope’s negative language on these topics.  More disturbing, though, is the fact that the pope’s and these bishops’ words reveal an immense lack of information on gender and transgender people.  For instance, the Crux article quotes Pope Francis as saying “gender theory is an error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion,”  and that this view of gender is one reason why “the family is under attack.”

If the pope and bishops would listen to LGBT people’s experience, they could understand that what they claim is “theory” and “ideology” is actually a very human and holy phenomenon.  They would also realize that LGBT advocates are not attacking anything, but just trying to help people live whole and full lives. Far from attacking the family, the experience of families with LGBT members shows that acceptance of these realities can promote family harmony, unity, and strength.  LGBT people are not enemies of the church, but faithful members who can help it grow.  Since LGBT people’s experiences are lived realities, it seems that the only people promoting “theory” and “ideology” in these discussions are the those who insist that gender binaries are set in stone.


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Related posts:

Bondings 2.0: Putting Pope Francis’ “Ideology of Gender” Comments in Context

Bondings 2.0:  Pope Francis’ Remarks on Gender in Schools Deemed Ambiguous, Out of Touch

Bondings 2.0:  Pope’s Lament About Children and Gender Identity Reveals Serious Blind Spot


16 replies
  1. healthroks
    healthroks says:

    I still don’t understand the importance of a “natural” family? Once again, bloodlines and “natural” families all seem to boil down to one thing: property and pride. “My wife, my kid, my identity and my ego”.

  2. Clyde Christofferson
    Clyde Christofferson says:

    In principle, the problem with “ideology” is that it becomes closed to reality. If we emphasize and agree with that point, then it will turn out that the binary “man and a woman” is the “gender ideology” and the LGBT diversity is the reality.

  3. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    Francis said he wanted to focus on the poor, but he has fallen into the hate all things non-missionary straight sex of his recent predecessors. Living in a homosexual environment (the reality of the Vatican) without some way to relieve the sexual tension leads to abuse and hatred as we have seen in the larger clergy sex abuse scandal. This one with a smiling face, but the same problems.

  4. Wilhelm Wonka
    Wilhelm Wonka says:

    Well, what else could anyone have reasonably expected? These churchmen were always going to toe the anti-LGBT line already and increasingly set by Pope Francis.

    The language of these hierarchs, like the language of the Bishop of Rome, is paranoid and alarmist on LGBT issues. It is also inflammatory and may incite some not only to verbal attack on LGBT people, but to physical assualt as well.

    Pope Francis is being irresponsible in his choice of words when making such controversial and unproven claims about “gender ideology”. He has a grave moral duty to ensure that his words and actions do not endanger the marginalised in the Church. It is a duty he has not always lived up to.

  5. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    A case could be made that the church is “imposing ideology” by insisting on its definition of intimacy, love and marriage based on its outdated ideas instead of science, lived experience, or common sense. The bottom line is that the institutional church seeks power and not mercy or love. Power and retaining control over property and people motivates the institutional church. Period. I have waited my entire lifetime for the church to modify its stance to women and our role in the church. I have been sorely disappointed. This is no different. The ideology will not change. Meanwhile, real people are crushed. It is such a tragedy because those who cannot absorb the fact that the church ideology insists that Catholics explicitly or implicitly must participate in discrimination must distance themselves from the church. And this is also on those who rigidly adhere to outdated and ignorant ideas. The bully bishops are literally pushing many Catholics away from their faith and out of the church. This is not a matter of containing “the gay agenda.” This is a moral imperative for all Catholics. We cannot sit by and watch the firings, bullying, name-calling, and other discrimination and call ourselves Christian. This much is clear. The hierarchy is committing the biggest sin of pushing souls away from the church.

  6. Friends
    Friends says:

    This is the perfect opportunity to post a link to my good online friend Maria Johnson’s latest edition of her “Reasonably Catholic” radio program — which is broadcast on several radio stations in Connecticut, and which will also be made available for the next few months online. You can listen to the current program here:


    Here’s Maria’s own description of the current program:


    Hofstra Professor Julie Byrne’s new book, “The Other Catholics: Remaking America’s Largest Religion”, 10-plus years in the making, explores “independent Catholics,” churches that are not formally connected to the Roman Catholic Church, but which hold to the tenets of apostolic succession, the seven sacraments, and devotion to the saints.

    Progressive-minded Catholics will take encouragement from her argument that it’s the most left-leaning of these churches — those which, for instance, allow same-sex marriage and female clergy – that are the Roman church’s future, its “research labs.” In fact, she points out, some Roman Catholic priests are already turning to independent churches for help — such as when a couple wants to be married but the bride, say, has been divorced.

    Independent Catholics are believers who love the Roman Catholic Church — but who “are tired of waiting” for it to change.

    “What we see now, after all these years since Vatican II, with even the papacy of Pope Francis, it’s very clear there are limits to what Francis can change,” says Julie, “how fast the Roman church can change. There are Roman Catholic progressives as well as ex-Catholics who are really tired of waiting for the change. That is why the independent Catholic groups that have been working in small churches for all these years are seeing so much interest. They’re doing the changes already, such as ordaining women, open communion for the divorced…and having open sacraments, regardless of a person’s background. If he or she has completed the training, the sacraments are open.”


    If you like this program trailer, please listen to the entire program. You’ll be amazed.;..and hopefully inspired. I’m personally blessed to be part of a major University-based Cardinal Newman Catholic Center community, which IS in fact open and welcoming to absolutely everyone who wants to worship with them. But I appreciate that other folks who are stuck out there in the trenches of mainstream Middle America may not be so fortunate.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Fourth, McElwee noted the pope’s prominent commitment to environmental justice. This has included the release of the encyclical Laudato Si, which was warmly received though raised questions for LGBT advocates based on ambiguous language about gender identity. Failure to clarify in this encyclical and in other remarks what he means by “ideological colonization” or unspecified critiques of gender theory have given LGBT-negative bishops leeway to be condemnatory. […]

  2. […] Vatican official has said transgender rights are “demonic,” and bishops worldwide have echoed these sentiments in less abrasive terms. Pope Francis’ record on gender identity is mixed: he met with and […]

  3. […] In a larger trend this year, bishops appear to have been encouraged by Pope Francis’ criticism of  “gender theory” and “ideological colonization” in the context of LGBT issues. You can read several examples of such statements by bishops by clicking here. […]

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