The fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ election on March 13th has been a moment of reflection for Catholics on the impact this revolutionary pope has had, and that includes on LGBT issues. Today’s post highlights a few commentaries published around the anniversary. To view a full five -year chronology of Pope Francis and LGBT issues, click here.
Jamie Manson wrote for The Tablet about Francis and his treatment of gender and sexuality issues. She stated that, after five years, “from where I am sitting, little has changed.” The pope’s thinking on gender and sexuality “appears to be fundamentally identical to that of his papal predecessors.” Francis, Manson explained, buys into the idea of gender complementarity and has harshly criticized same-gender relationships even as he expresses a desire for a more pastoral Church. She concluded:
“It might be argued that it is unreasonable to expect the Pope to support same-sex unions or – particularly given how new awareness is of these realities – transgender persons. But the language that Francis chooses creates in many gay and lesbian and transgender Catholics a strong sense of shame. By pitting heterosexual couples – ‘God’s masterpiece’ – against same-sex couples, he ingrains the same old feelings of sinfulness not only in LGBT people but in their families as well.
“Again, no one expects the bar on same-sex couples marrying in the Church to be lifted easily or quickly, but language and gesture are all-important. Being barred from getting married in one’s own church can create a profound sense that one’s love and commitment are incapable of goodness and holiness.
“Francis’ stances on LGBT issues have global consequences. His failure to speak out against draconian anti-homosexuality laws during his trip to three African nations calls into question how committed he is to justice for the most marginalised and vulnerable. He has won global affection as a champion of the poor and oppressed, as a defender of the environment and as a promoter of human rights. His charisma and power over the consciences of world leaders could have untold influence on raising up women and LGBT people to equal status and dignity. Unfortunately, it is an opportunity he has so far failed to grasp.”
DignityUSA’s Marianne Duddy-Burke released a similar response to the fifth anniversary, stating:
“However, for LGBTQI people and our families, early hopes that Francis’ openness would result in wide pastoral embrace or even changes to longstanding condemnatory dogma have not been realized. He has made inflammatory and hurtful statements, and has maintained inadequate and harmful traditional teachings on sex, gender, relationships, and marriage. . .Pope Francis is clearly a man and a leader moved by the needs of the poor and marginalized. If in the remaining period of his papacy he can come to understand the damage that the Church’s dogma and practices regarding sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity do to individuals, families, and entire communities, there may be an opportunity for real change.”
Manson’s and Duddy-Burke’s perspective little to nothing has changed on homosexuzlity since Francis was elected may reflect the mood of the general U.S Catholic population. In a survey released by the Pew Research Center, 57% of Catholics said the pope had done only a little in addressing lesbian and gay people, had done nothing, or had made the Church less accepting. 38% of those surveyed would like to see him do more. Just 7% said Francis’ handling of LGBT issues is the most important thing he has done.
But one indisputable action Pope Francis has taken is his repeatedly expressed desire for there to be less judgmentalism in the Church, including on homosexuality. Michael O’Loughlin posited in America Magazine that the soundbite of this papacy will be the pope’s “Who am I to judge?” comment made in 2013. O’Loughlin wrote:
“It was a simple question that nonetheless would go on to define the papacy of a pastor whom the world was just getting to know. . .The pope’s question held obvious appeal for L.G.B.T. Catholics and their families. For one thing, Francis actually used the word gay—a first for a pope. . .It also signaled an openness from the highest echelons of the church toward accompanying gays and lesbians on their faith journeys, something relatively novel in recent church history. . . when Pope Francis had the opportunity in 2016 to address the comment himself, he repeated his assertion that gays and lesbians should not be marginalized in the church. . .
“Of course, the pope’s comments and his desire to rid the church of excessive judgment extend far beyond his thoughts about the L.G.B.T. community. In fact, resisting judgmentalism pops up again and again in the pope’s writings, homilies, and addresses.”
What do you think? Has Pope Francis made the Catholic Church more or less accepting of LGBT people? Or has his papacy had little impact at all? Let us know in the “Comments” section below. To refresh your memory of the papacy, review New Ways Ministry’s timeline of moments when Pope Francis spoke about or acted on LGBT issues. You can find that resource by clicking here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 15, 2018