Not the ally he portrays, Pope Francis has very recently denounced same sex marriages as he thumps the bible for traditional unions as befitting the sole definition of family.
Hope reigned supreme that real change was possible with the installation of Pope Francis as head of the Catholic Church. During his brief tenure thus far, at least in some of this statements and issue papers, he has moved the Church in a more progressive direction by challenging the massive economic inequities under the Capitalist system, in stressing the human role in climate change and our imperative to reverse this dangerous trend, in offering “forgiveness” to women who have had abortions if they seek forgiveness, in softening Church condemnations on heterosexual divorce, and even in claiming not to judge gay priests.
As new Pope, at an impromptu news conference aboard his papal jet on July 29, 2013 while returning to the Vatican from Brazil after completing his first international trip where he spoke to millions celebrating “World Youth Day,” responding to a question about gay priests, he stated: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
On the Jews:
Actually, the Catholic Church has changed some of its official dogma over the years on various issues. For example, after almost two millennia of accusing Jews of being in the service of the Devil and for killing Jesus, the Church, under Pope John XXIII, forgave Jews for the murder (even though it was not the Jews, but rather the Romans who killed Jesus, but let’s not quibble). For nearly 2000 years, the Church subscribed to a literal interpretation of its scripture regarding Jewish people found in the Christian Testaments, for example:
- 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16: “[T]he Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out, the Jews who are heedless of God’s will and enemies of their fellow man….All this time they have been making up the full measure of their guilt, and now retribution has overtaken the good of all.”
- Matthew 27:24-25: “Pilate could see that nothing was being gained, and a riot was starting [among the Jews]; so he took water and washed his hands in full view of the people saying, “My hands are clean of this man’s blood; see to that yourselves,” and with one voice the people cried, ‘His blood be on us, and on our children’.”
- John 8: 44: And Jesus said: “If God were your father, you would love me…[but] your father is the devil and you choose to carry out your father’s desires.”
- Revelation 2:9: “The Jews…are Satan’s synagogue.”
- Revelation 3:9: “I will make those of Satan’s synagogue, who claim to be Jews but are lying frauds, come and fall down at your feet.”
The Church now condemns the institution of slavery, which was not always the case when it followed a number of passages in the Christian Testaments, for example:
- Ephesians 6:5-6: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”
- 1 Timothy 6:1-2: “Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful to them on the ground that they are members of the church; rather they must serve them all the more, since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved.”
Quoting a number of Biblical passages, Pope Nicholas V, in 1452, for example, composed his Dum Diversas, which granted to the kings of Spain and Portugal the right to reduce any “Saracens [Muslims] and pagans and any other unbelievers” to perpetual slavery. Then in 1548,Pope Paul III, reasserted that any free person may buy, sell, and own slaves, and that runaway slaves were to be returned to their owners for punishment. Pope Gregory I in 595 sent a priest to Britain to purchase Pagan boys to work as slaves on church estates. Around the year 600, Pope Gregory I wrote, in Pastoral Rule: “Slaves should be told…not [to] despise their masters and recognize that they are only slaves.” And between 1629-1661, Popes Urban VII, Innocent X, and Alexander VII, purchased Muslim slaves.
The Catholic Church, while it still grants women little authority in its administration, it now permits women and girls to have some control over what they wear and to actually speak in church (so very progressive!), rather than following a strict reading of such passages as:
- 1 Timothy 2:9: “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.”
- 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, 37: “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church…what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.”
The Catholic Catechism does not significantly contradict these texts, but softens the tone somewhat while reifying the “natural” place of men above women in the hierarchy of the home and of the Church.
- 1 Corinthians 11:3: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”
On LGBTQ People:
Vatican hierarchy recently informed Alex Salinas, a 21-year-old transman from Cadiz, Spain, that it had denied his request to become the godparent of his nephew because being transgender is incongruent with Catholic teaching. According to the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its doctrine-enforcing agency:
Transgender status “reveals in a public way an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sexuality. Therefore it is evident that this person does not possess the requirement of leading a life according to the faith and in the position of godfather and is therefore unable to be admitted to the position of godfather or godmother.”
The Vatican asserted that there is “no discrimination toward [Salinas], but only the recognition of an objective lack of the requirements, which by their nature are necessary to assume the ecclesial responsibility of being a godfather.”
And according to the Roman Catholic Church Catechism 2357 related to same-sex sexuality, it states:
“Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are gravely disordered. They are contrary to natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of love [i.e., children]. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
“Gravely disordered” in this passage refers to acting on same-sex desires with another person while not necessarily applying to the person or people involved: the old “we hate the sin but love the sinner” slight-of-hand. For individuals within the Church who cannot or will not change to a heterosexual orientation, they are still welcomed into the Church community by following Roman Catholic Church Catechism 2359:
“Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”
Pope Francis stated at a Vatican conference on traditional marriage in November 2014 that marriage is between a man and a woman and that “[t]his complementarity is at the root of marriage and family.” He added that this union between a man and a woman is “an anthropological fact…that cannot be qualified based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history.”
He also asserted: “Children have the right to grow up in a family with a father and mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”
He amplified his message in front of more than 1,000 families in the Philippines during a recent trip when he warned that “[t]he family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.” These forces, he said, are attempting the “ideological colonization of the family.” Among other forces, this was also a reference to marriage for same-sex couples.
The Pope took an additional swipe at LGBTQ people at another recent weekly Vatican audience when he gave his unqualified blessing to a Slovakian referendum outlawing same-sex unions and adoption rights for same-sex couples. He proclaimed: “I greet the pilgrims from Slovakia and, through them, I wish to express my appreciation to the entire Slovak church, encouraging everyone to continue their efforts in defense of the family, the vital cell of society.”
So El Papa considers denying LGBTQ people (his children) the rights of marriage and adoption and to their sexuality and gender identities and expressions; denying us the benefits, privileges, and responsibilities of legalized partnerships and families; and denying us the right to be named and serve as godparents.
Francis and his Church have battled to deny us our subjectivity and personal agency. They have disrespected our human and civil rights. The Catholic Church talks in doublespeak saying “we love you,” “we welcome you,” “we offer you ‘Christian love,’” and “we are here to help you change your unwanted attractions and gender identities and expressions,” which we, by the way, define as “gravely and intrinsically disordered” and incongruent with Catholic teaching. Is this truly love? Or is this rather cruelty, discrimination, and, yes, abuse and oppression?
I find this disappointing at best since Francis showed us some indications that he could take the Church out of the 17th Century where it has remained stuck for some time and carry it on the wings of a dove to at least the 19th if not the 20th or 21st century regarding the concerns of LGBTQ people. But alas, the dove has died as has the hope. All we have to look forward to from the Catholic Church is the same ol’ same ol’ for probably the next millennium or so. But by then, humanity will overpopulate itself to extinction through the Church’s ban on contraceptives and denial of women’s reproductive freedoms.
Rather than requiring women to ask it for forgiveness, the Vatican needs, instead, to ask those of us whom it has repressed and oppressed for forgiveness of its sins throughout its existence.
Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).
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