Pope Francis has invited the world to consider how we can build a post-pandemic “collective future” free from inequality. As we heed the pope’s message, we must also add that the collective future—both for the church and the world—must include equality for LGBTQ people.
On Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis addressed the current COVID-19 pandemic, the underlying inequality and injustice that has exacerbated the health crisis, and the need for the creation of a new society, where all creatures flourish. This new creation sees “the whole human family as one and holds all of the earth’s gifts in common in order to be shared justly with those in need.”
For those fortunate enough not to be directly impacted by virus, this time of isolation offers the opportunity to assess the injustices of the world and to begin to creatively plan for our more equal collective future. One of the failures of our modern society, according to Pope Francis, is that we prioritize some lives over others. The virus of “selfish indifference” causes us to be egotistical, individualistic, and exclusive, hoarding our privilege at the expense of ever-widening societal margins.
The current pandemic, according to Pope Francis, “reminds us that there are no differences or borders between those who suffer. We are all frail, all equal, all precious.”
“May we be profoundly shaken by what is happening all around us: the time has come to eliminate inequalities, to heal the injustice that is undermining the health of the entire human family… To everyone: let us not think only of our interests, our vested interests. Let us welcome this time of trial as an opportunity to prepare for our collective future. Because without an all-embracing vision, there will be no future for anyone.
“And let us show mercy to those who are most vulnerable; for only in this way will be build a new world.”
Queer theology, an academic approach to the world that values the realities and perspectives of queer people, evolves out of the feminist principle of mutuality, which sees the gospel message as one that fundamentally changes human relationships. Jesus comes so that we may stop treating one another as objects for use, and instead to see each other as equal subjects. Queer theology sees the gospel message as one that destroys the boundaries between people, just as queer identities destroy the boundaries that distinguish sexualities and genders.
It is quite right, then, to say that Pope Francis’ message is quite queer. Where society sets up a hierarchy, the Gospel creates mutuality, in which all people bear one another’s burdens and flourish collectively, despite their differences. So long as we allow economic, racial, social inequality to continue, we fail to live the gospel message.
In this time of creative renewal to which Pope Francis is inviting us, we cannot ignore the injustices the LGBTQ community face in the church and in the world. Currently, same-gender relationships are illegal in over 70 countries, with 12 allowing the death penalty for consensual same-gender sexual acts. In the U.S., LGBTQ youth make up a disproportionate 40% of youth experiencing homelessness, and LGBQ youth are over than three times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. LGBTQ people are vilified, demonized, and excluded from our churches who claim to be the universal church of the good news of Jesus. Any collective future that does not eradicate the injustice against the LGBTQ community is not Christian.
If we are to take Pope Francis’ call to renewal seriously, we must first take the gospel seriously. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, and liberation to the oppressed. Jesus’ gospel destroys hierarchical binaries which create categories of insiders and outsiders. His message makes all people equally responsible for the flourishing of every other person. In order to build a society free from injustice and inequality, the Catholic Church and the world must welcome the LGBTQ community as fully equal members of society and beloved children of God. Alongside injustice affecting other marginalized groups, the Church must work to eradicate its own oppression of the LGBTQ community, to model God’s unconditional love to the rest of society. As we begin to dream about a new world to come, we must remind our society and our church that LGBTQ people have to included in our visions of justice and equality.
—Kevin Molloy, New Ways Ministry, May 13, 2020