Just a day after news broke that Pope Francis told a gay man “God made you like this,” another story came to light that a former top Vatican official said homophobia is a “hoax” and compared the movement for LGBT equality to Nazism. His remark, as well as those of other bishops in response the news about the pope’s statement, highlights how varied official positions towards LGBT issues have become.
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made his anti-gay statements while being interviewed by an Italian blogger, reported Crux. Asked about church leaders who participate in the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, which occurred May 17, Müller answered at various points:
- “‘Some bishops today don’t have the courage to speak the truth, and allow themselves to be intimidated…They don’t understand that homophobia is a hoax that serves to threaten people.'”
- “‘[Homophobia] simply doesn’t exist.’
- “‘[Homophobia is] an invention, an instrument of totalitarian dominion over the minds of others.'”
Müller said there is a current form of “psycho-terrorism” playing on people’s ignorance that creates such fear. He remarked about movement for LGBT equality:
“‘The homosexual movement doesn’t have scientific arguments, so it’s constructed an ideology that wants to dominate, seeking to construct its own reality. It’s the Marxist scheme, according to which it’s not reality that builds thought, it’s thought that builds reality. . .In the Soviet Union, Christians were put into insane asylums, which are the means of totalitarian regimes such as National Socialism and Communism. . .Today in North Korea, the same fate awaits anyone who doesn’t accept the dominant thinking.'”
Müller’s claim that homophobia is a “hoax” clearly defies not only Pope Francis’ most recent gay-positive remark, but also the pope’s acknowledgement to a former gay student that “there is no place for homophobia” in Francis’ own pastoral ministry. This incident is not the first time Müller has opposed Pope Francis, but it may be one of his most direct refutations of the pope’s vision for the Church.
Elsewhere, Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston, Jamaica made similarly offensive remarks about lesbian and gay people, reported the Jamaica Observer. Responding to Pope Francis comment of “God made you that way,” Richards said:
“‘If a person is known to have the maladaptive behaviour of stealing, does that mean he was born a thief?'”
But whereas Müller stands firm in opposition and Richards remains gay-negative, some church leaders have taken an ambiguous stance when it comes to Pope Francis’ model for LGBT ministry.
During a radio interview, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York responded to the pope’s most recent comments on homosexuality. The cardinal first praised the pope’s comments, stating: “Jesus would have said that.” Crux reported:
“‘What he says is beautiful,’ Dolan said of Francis’s comments.
“‘That’s sort of conservative, traditional, Catholic, orthodox teaching. The Catechism insists on that,’ he added.
But then Dolan continued on a more negative note, Crux reported:
“Dolan, it seems, was primarily referring to the first part of Francis’s comments and went on to note that neither he – nor Francis, he believed – would be qualified to weigh in on whether an individual was born gay.
“‘Even among professional circles, there’s an ongoing debate whether one is born that way or is it nature or nurture,’ Dolan said.”
The cardinal also said that both same-gender sexual activity and the mistreatment of a gay person are “contrary to God’s purpose.”
Dolan’s record on LGBT issues is generally negative, though he has had some positive moments. He once said lesbian and gay people should “wash their hands” before coming to church because there should “no dirty hands.” He said U.S. church leaders were “out marketed” on LGBT rights and remained silent when anti-LGBT hate crimes spiked in New York City. He has defended the inclusion of LGBT groups in that city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade after decades of controversy, and once said to lesbian and gay people, “I love you, too. And God loves you.” When Francis made his “Who am I to judge?” remark back in 2013, the cardinal said it was acceptable to judge people’s actions even if not their person.
Frequent readers of Bondings 2.0 will note the increasing number of posts featuring bishops making LGBT-positive statements. They are often bishops who were appointed by Pope Francis. But Müller, Richards, and Dolan’s statements are stark reminders that for too many church leaders, a toxic combination of prejudice, ignorance, and/or indifference prevent them from following Francis’ lead.
More reactions to Pope Francis’ recent comments from other Catholic leaders and observers will be posted on Bondings 2.0 in the coming days.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 25, 2018