Pope Francis Names Two Pastorally-Inclined Cardinals Open to LGBTQ+ Issues

Cardinal-designate Victor Manuel Fernández

Pope Francis announced a new round of cardinals to be created at a consistory this September, one the new head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office who is open to blessing queer couples and the other a Polish archbishop who seems more LGBTQ-positive than his country’s episcopate at large.

Named a Cardinal, Incoming Vatican Doctrinal Head Further Signals New Path for His Office

A week before being named a cardinal, Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández first was appointed as the new prefect for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, once the Vatican’s most powerful office. Bondings 2.0 reported previously that in announcing Fernández, Pope Francis criticized the dicastery’s past “immoral methods,” perhaps referencing the silencing of theologians and suppression of pastoral workers for which it was known. Francis said of the prelate, described by others as “the pope’s theologian” given their long history of working together, that he expected “something without doubt much different” from Fernández.

In an interview after the announcement, Fernández expressed an openness to blessings for queer couples, though reaffirmed such blessings should not be confused with the heteronormative understanding of marriage. He also acknowledged that church teaching can in fact evolve, statements he reaffirmed in another interview with the Catholic Herald. While not directly touching on LGBTQ+ issues, Fernández’s words are important for how gender and sexuality will be treated by church leaders going forward. He said, in part:

“All of the Church’s teachings have an enormous richness. To me, it sounds a bit vain to believe that one has everything clear on these issues. In them, the exciting mystery of human lives is in play, where not everything is mathematics. Did not St Thomas say that “the more one descends into the particulars, the more confused God’s will becomes?” And he was not a relativist. We have a lot to learn about so many things, and let’s say it very clearly: the doctrine of the Gospel does not change, but our understanding of it does change, and changes a lot.”

Part of Fernández’s role, he said, would be to ensure the teachings of the “recent magisterium,” in other words the teachings of Pope Francis, were incorporated into theological reflection. He explained:

“I see clearly that Francis wants the function of the prefect to be fully oriented toward a theological reflection in dialogue that helps to mature the Church’s thought. . .I take very seriously the last thing the letter says: that I must ensure that both the documents of the dicastery and those of others “accept the recent Magisterium”.

“This is essential for the internal coherence of thought in the Roman Curia. Because it can happen that answers are given to certain theological issues without accepting what Francis has said that is new on those issues. And it’s not only inserting a phrase from Pope Francis but allowing thought to be transfigured with his criteria. This is particularly true for moral and pastoral theology.”

Cardinal-designate Grzegorz_Ryś

Polish Cardinal-Designate Foregrounds Pastoral Engagement

Cardinal-designate Grzegorz Ryś, archbishop of Łódź in Poland since 2017, addressed LGBTQ+ issues in a 2019 television interview. He said, in part (via Google Translate):

“‘It is easy to say that LGBT people are not excluded from the Church, because in fact they are not. It is still necessary to specify where they can find a space for themselves to engage in it. . .These are always individual meetings, with a person, not with a movement. It is important in them – and this is the essence of Pope Francis’ revolution – that the starting point should not be the moral principles themselves, but the person and the good that God does in his life, focusing on the good, not the shortcomings.'”

Ryś’ comments are particularly notable given the Polish episcopate’s hardline stance against LGBTQ+ rights in recent years. For instance, in 2020, the nation’s episcopal conference issued a document that claimed church teaching on homosexuality was infallible and seemingly endorsed conversion therapy. Some archbishops have suggested that the movement for LGBTQ equality is “the most serious threat to humanity” or that it is a “rainbow plague” comparable to totalitarianism. Other times, church leaders have been slow to condemn violent attacks against Pride marches and remained silent when some Polish towns were declared “LGBT-Free Zones.”

Ryś, however, seems more pastorally inclined, willing to meet with and listen to LGBTQ+ people, even if he holds more conservative views overall. Hopefully, his influence on the Polish episcopate will at least help direct it away from extreme positions in a country where LGBTQ+ people face increasing threats.

Pope Francis named 19 other cardinals for the September 30th consistory. The 16 new cardinals besides Fernández and Ryś who are eligible to vote in a conclave are: Archbishops Robert Francis Prevost, O.S.A., Prefect, Dicastery for Bishops; Claudio Gugerotti, Prefect, Dicastery for Eastern Churches; Emil Paul Tscherrig, Apostolic Nuncio to Italy and San Marino; Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States; Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; Stephen Brislin of Capetown, Ángel Sixto Rossi, S.J., of Córdoba, Luis José Rueda Aparicio of Bogotá; Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla of Juba, José Cobo Cano of Madrid, Protase Rugambwa, coadjutor of Tabora; Bishops Sebastian Francis of Penang, Stephen Chow Sau-Yan, S.J., of Hong Kong; Francois-Xavier Bustillo, O.F.M. Conv., of Ajaccio; Américo Manuel Alves Aguiar, auxiliary of Lisbon; and Father Ángel Fernández Artime, S.D.B., Rector Major of the Salesians. The pope also named three cardinals over 80 who are not eligible to vote, one of whom recently passed away after the announcement. Brief information from the Vatican about each cardinal can be found here.

Once again, Pope Francis’ choice of new cardinals reflects his desire for a College of Cardinals that represents a global church, particularly the margins, with members who are pastorally oriented. Christopher Lamb of The Tablet details the significance of the new appointments, calling the appointment of Pierre “the strongest” message because it appearss to be a rebuke of the U.S. episcopate’s resistance to Pope Francis’ agenda and fixation on “culture warrior” causes, including stymieing LGBTQ+ rights.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, July 15, 2023

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2 replies
  1. Elizabeth Cavaluzzo
    Elizabeth Cavaluzzo says:

    I thank God for Pope Francis. He gets it! And so does James Martin, SJ. The Church is shedding parishioners because of archaic, and often, erroneous beliefs. Let’s include all in our church. God is infallible, there is nothing disordered about being gay! Homosexuality is God’s creation!


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