At the center of the dispute over the Vatican’s recent ban on blessing same-gender couples has been Pope Francis’ role. Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 presented reports that the pope seeme to distance himself from the ban in his Sunday Angelus address, but many people still blame the pope. When it comes to Francis, it seems there is no resolution yet on what some observers consider his two faces on LGBTQ issues.
Paul Elie of Georgetown University took up the question of Pope Francis’ mixed messages in relation to the ban in The New Yorker, writing, “The responsum was no great surprise, but its absolutizing language was, because it runs counter to Pope Francis’s emphasis on the Church as an agent less of judgment than of mercy.” On the question of why the pope allowed such a document to be published, Elie writes:
“Why, then, did he let it come out? [Sources] cited various extenuating circumstances: Francis is the head of a global Church, not just of the Church in progressive Europe. He is practicing realpolitik—throwing traditionalists a bone so as to keep their support on other issues. He was outfoxed by the clerical bureaucrats of the C.D.F., who met surreptitiously to draft the document and then pushed it through while he was busy preparing for his long-anticipated trip to Iraq. . .
“Circumstances don’t diminish either the sting of the document or the Pope’s responsibility for it, however.”
Elie is unconvinced that Francis was too busy to read a document, to which he assented, according to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s document. Elie contends that arguments about same-gender unions should be downplayed in a global church fall flat. He concludes:
“The new responsum, in effect, leaves L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics in limbo, trying to make sense of a Church that will not deign to bless their lives. And it suggests that, on matters of marriage and sexuality, Pope Francis’s pontificate, too, is in a kind of limbo—unable to accompany people on the margins, because the Church itself is doing the marginalizing, and stymied by juridical formulas so heartless that the Pope winds up trying to distance himself from them.”
(Worth noting, too, is Elie’s highlighting of comments by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York in which the cardinal downplayed the responsum‘s impact while also failing to mention LGBTQ people entirely. For Elie’s full piece, click here.)
In The Daily Beast, several people interviewed also spoke to the pope’s role in this controversy. Jobert Abueva, who is gay and left the church, commented, “I have lost all hope. . .It’s as if his progressive thinking has been squelched by more powerful forces with the church and he has since had to retreat.”
Dawn Ennis, a transgender former Catholic, added, “As Pope Francis’s health fails and he is under greater control from conservative forces within the Vatican, I have zero hope and just as much interest. . .People who once believed he would bring change need to say their goodbyes and walk away.”
But not all of those interviewed in The Daily Beast were so condemnatory of Francis. Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig, a Black lesbian journalist, said of the pope, “I believe in him, as a man, as a human being. . .even though I still question much of the papacy’s leadership.”
In a final note, news broke on Wednesday that Pope Francis had appointed a gay man, Juan Carlos Cruz, as a member of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors. Cruz, who is a survivor of clergy abuse himself, has publicly criticized Francis in the past. Most recently, he sharply criticized the Vatican’s blessings ban, comparing it to the Inquisition.
All of this adds up to further confusion about where Pope Francis truly lands on LGBTQ issues. Unfortunately, Paul Elie is spot on that, as of now, both LGBTQ Catholics and the Francis pontificate are further in limbo after last week.
On Sunday, March 28, 2020, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, will be addressing Boston’s LGBTQ Catholics Unite group on “Pope Francis’ Two Faces on LGBTQ+ Issues.” The program begins at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. If you are interested in attending this Zoom event, please email stceciliarainbowministry@
New Ways Ministry has documented both Pope Francis’ positive and negative words and actions over the last eight years of his pontificate in a chronology available here.
Thousands of Catholics worldwide are pledging to bless same-gender couples. If you have not already added your name to New Ways Ministry’s pledge, you can do so here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 25, 2021
For all the previous posts concerning the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples, click here.
For a listing of Catholic leaders who have spoken positively about same-gender relationships and unions, click here.
For information about a Catholic blessing for a same-gender couple, click here.
For more information on how to be welcoming to married same-gender couples, click here.