Mixed reactions to Pope Francis’ most recent LGBT-related comments have continued to be published, including the perspectives of feminist Catholics and some columnists.
Jamie Manson of National Catholic Reporter suggested LGBT Catholics should not be too hopeful about Pope Francis’ recent comment to a gay man, Juan Carlos Cruz, that “God made you like this.” She offered two reasons: the Vatican’s decision not to confirm that the pope actually made the alleged comments, and the pope’s earlier slander against Cruz who has made accusations about his sexual abuse by clergy. She continued:
“Other than his still-ambiguous ‘Who am I to judge?’ comment in 2013, the only truly affirming remarks Francis has offered to LGBTQ persons have come from secondhand accounts from the few openly gay men who were given the privilege to speak to him. Can we possibly find authentic hope in Francis’ strange game of telephone?
“Rather than try to decode Francis’ language or struggle to discern what is truly in his heart, perhaps it is time to admit how inadequate his rumored words are in the face of the grave spiritual harm, loss of work and civil rights, and physical violence endured by LGBTQ persons everyday, often at the hands of Christian churches and teachings.”
Manson called to readers’ attention Ssenfuka Joanita Warry, a lesbian Catholic who struggles for LGBT rights in Uganda, and who has experienced and witnessed the punitive and dangerous context for LGBT people in that country. At the Voices of Faith event last spring, Warry told attendees that religious leaders’ failure to act for equality “makes them complicit” in the harm done. Manson commented:
“In many parts of our world, LGBTQ persons are as marginalized as some of the poorest of the poor, facing poverty, lack of work and sexualized violence because of their status. For those in parts of the world where there is no threat of imprisonment or death, there is the spiritual violence of being rejected by family, the workplace and the church.
“In the face of so much suffering, LGBTQ persons deserve much more than hearsay. They deserve the same level of outspoken, vigorous advocacy that the pope offers other oppressed groups.
“Francis told Cruz that it ‘doesn’t matter’ if he is gay. But the need for Francis to speak boldly and clearly in defense of LGBTQ people does matter. In fact, for many of us, it’s a matter of life and death.”
Manson participated in a feminist panel earlier this year that marked the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ election. Co-sponsored by Dignity/New York and the Women’s Ordination Conference, Manson asked at that event, “At what point does our hope for him become denial?”
Theologian Mary Hunt, writing on Francis’ papacy in general in a Religion Dispatches piece titled “Earth to Planet Catholic: Francis Papacy is No Picnic,” concluded:
“Meanwhile [after several Church failures], in other parts of the solar system there are wars, Royinga women dealing with babies after an epidemic of rapes, and superpowers at odds over nuclear capacities. As for the Francis legacy, I suspect history will ask, Francis who?”
Against the pope’s critics, Arshy Mann writing at Xtra was more hopeful and wrote:
“But for millions of LGBT Catholics, it’s a fight worth having. There is perhaps no single institution in the world that has such an outsized effect on attitudes towards LGBT people than the Catholic Church. Even small shifts can have profound consequences.
“Francis’ papacy may be a new beginning. How that story ends is yet to be written.”
Columnist Michael Coren writing for iPolitics walked the line, suggesting Francis’ comment to Cruz was “arguably the most revolutionary statement made by any senior Catholic priest, let alone a Pope.” Coren, a Canadian who is a former Catholic, also wrote:
“I doubt we will see very much progress and action on this issue for some time, but the door has been pushed open wider, and it looks as though it’s impossible to shut it again. . . Perhaps, just perhaps, [pro-LGBT politicians] will soon be able to ignore all of that nonsense. And that will be a good thing not only for Canada, but also for the Roman Catholic Church.”
Based on a report from the Pew Research Center published earlier this year, Pope Francis is viewed positively by U.S. Catholics with an 84% approval rating. 74% of people surveyed believe the pope has made the Church at least a little more accepting of lesbian and gay people. 38% would like to see Francis do more to be inclusive and just 7% said he should do less on homosexuality.
Where do you fall? Is Pope Francis’ remark to Juan Carlos Cruz a sign of progress? Should we be hopeful about the Francis papacy when it comes to LGBT issues? Or are hopes for him becoming denial? Review New Ways Ministry’s “Many Faces of Pope Francis” timeline of everything he has said and done, positively and negatively, on LGBT issues, and then leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section below.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 14, 2018
Times-Standard, “OUTspoken: Pope’s talk another sign of movement toward LGBTQ acceptance”
The Spectator, “Pope Francis raises the white flag”