Reading through the gay press, Facebook and Twitter and talking to friends, there is general bewilderment, anger and some disgust in our community at the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis.
These feelings are understandable. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires he claimed that same sex marriage was a ‘real and dire anthropological throwback’. His opposition to abortion and euthanasia have been more forthright calling them ‘crimes against life and family’.
So, the arguments against giving Francis any sort of chance go, case closed. He’s the same as the rest. There’ll be no change here.
I think the first thing to realize, is the Cardinals were electing a new pope, not a new Messiah. And like bears shit in the woods, this new pope was going to be a Catholic. He was going to be an old man and one that had Catholic views.
The next thing to realize is that given the choice on offer, things could have been much, much worse. Cardinal Turkson from Ghana who defended Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill, was a front runner. Let’s at least be thankful he didn’t win.
By contrast Bergoglio as Archbishop demanded gay men and lesbians ‘be accepted with respect and compassion’. He famously washed the feet of AIDS patients at a hospice in Argentina in 2001. Feet washing is a highly symbolic act in Catholic worship. I suggest that these acts and words are progress compared to Pope Benedict’s claim that lesbians and gays were a greater threat to humanity than global warming.
Pope Francis as Archbishop also condemned Priests that refused to baptize children born out of wedlock as ‘hypocritical clericalism and sacramental blackmail’.
No pope will ever be acceptable to any atheist, and most popes will be unacceptable to most non-Catholics. But those of us who do hold on to any elements of the faith presided over by The Bishop of Rome, realize that change in our church is a slow phenomenon.
What non-Catholics find hard to believe is that pretty much everything in Catholicism is sinful. Lust, masturbation, straight sex out of wedlock, straight sexual acts in wedlock that wouldn’t lead to procreation, contraception, gay sex, eating meat on a Friday (they might have changed that one recently), even new born babies have sin, yet if you ask for forgiveness, then all your sins can be absolved.
Therefore most Catholics decide themselves which sins are actually sinful and which ones aren’t. The birth rate in Italy is the lowest in Europe for a reason that most Catholic Italians would not consider sinful, but their church does.
Let’s not be under any illusions, Pope Francis is a conservative. I would suggest that the last two popes have been more conservative, ultra conservatives, so hopefully, this is progress of sorts.
I hope the church will alter its teachings on contraception. Pope Francis has reportedly joked in the past that the world should be covered in one big condom, so maybe there can be progress here. I also hope that women will be ordained, Pope Francis has talked about reconciliation with the Anglican Church, maybe this will be a way for this to happen. I hope he can sort out the corruption in the Vatican.
And as far as the whole gay thing goes, if Pope Francis doesn’t say anything at all about us, then that will be progress enough, if he continues to demand our acceptance with respect and compassion, then I shall be very happy.
You can hear Lucio Buffone discuss more of the news and lots of cultural issues with the HomoLab team’s podcast, uploaded onto Gay Star News weekly.