Pope Francis is a complicated, confusing pontiff to the LGBTI community –especially its transgender members.
On the surface Francis displays a pastoral countenance to his papacy that extends to us all.
He set off global shock waves, when flying home after a weeklong visit to Brazil in 2013, when he was queried about the ‘gay lobby’ in the Vatican.
‘When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … they’re our brothers.’
This public statement is the most LGBTI-affirmative remark the world has ever heard from the Catholic Church.
In response, world-famous US gay magazine The Advocate, named Pope Francis their Person of the Year.
‘When deciding who was the single most influential person of 2013 on the lives of LGBT people, there are obvious choices. At least, they seem so at first… Pope Francis is leader of 1.2billion Roman Catholics all over the world,’ they argued.
Pope Francis’ stark change in rhetoric from his two predecessors – both who were previous winners at The Advocate’s annual Phobie Awards – makes what he’s done in 2013 all the more daring.
Just below Francis’ LGBTQ pastoral message, however, the damaging and homophobic ecclesiastical edicts or theological tracts hold firm. Thanks to Francis.
The most recent example is the pontiff’s newest tome, Pope Francis: This Economy Kills. Francis compares transgender people to nuclear weapons – an unlikely pairing. He argues both destroy and desecrate God’s holy and ordained order of creation.
Francis spews the following transphobic remarks:
‘Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings,’ he continues. ‘Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.
‘With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator. The true custody of creation does not have anything to do with the ideologies that consider man like an accident, like a problem to eliminate.
‘God has placed man and woman and the summit of creation and has entrusted them with the earth. The design of the Creator is written in nature.’
Francis clear denunciation of our present day gender theories and understanding of the fluidity of human sexuality not only perpetuates spiritual harm and alienation to our trans community but it also unwittingly invites physical harm to trans people – done in the name of God with righteous wrath and indignation.
In 2000 The Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also denounced the existence of transgender people.
‘The key point is that the transsexual surgical operation is so superficial and external that it does not change the personality. If the person was a male, he remains male. If she was female, she remains female.’
Unlike his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, aka Joseph Ratzinger, who used his authoritarian and ‘Rottweiler’ persona of church doctrine to maintain an ecclesiastical lockdown on the churches progressives, Francis’ conciliatory demeanor is shockingly disarming and inviting. His views on gay priests, while not quite in lockstep with its Catholic LGBTI parishioners and allies, has moved the farthest of any pontiff in history. Nonetheless, his views on the surface are only perceptually progressive.
While it might be argued the Pope’s understanding of human sexual orientation is expanding, and his concern for the dignity and humanity of LGBTI people is genuine, the pontiff is still a doctrinal conservative who holds largely to the Catholic Church’s universal catechism about us.
His views on women’s role within the Catholic Church hierarchy are both retro and spiritually abusive.
Like Benedict, Pope Francis was in the same camp of condemning clerics suppressing the growth of Liberation Theologies in Third World countries, the emerging face of the Catholic Church, for their supposedly Marxist leanings that exposed classism.
However, Liberation Theologies combine Christian theology with political activism on issues dealing with human rights and social justice. Liberation Theologies emphasize the biblical themes that God’s actions on behalf of the enslaved, the poor, the outcasts like women, people of color, and LGBTI people, just to name a few, are a central paradigm for a faith that embraces the world – as it is today – from an engaged and committed stance that does justice.
It’s not enough for Francis to say he embraces our community. He must also do it.