The new pope is not all sweetness and light – especially not for gays

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All North Jersey Pride Festival photos by Steve Dovidio.

commentary:

The new pope, Francis I, comes to the throne amidst general hosannas and a great deal of PR about his dedication to personal poverty and his touchingly worded appeals for concern for the world’s poor.

We are lovingly told how he refused to live in the Archbishop’s palace when he was elevated to the diocese of Buenos Aires, choosing instead a simple apartment. He got rid of the chauffeur-driven limo and took the bus to work. 

Editorial Cartoon April 2013All of that is marvelous symbolism. Clearly, the man knows how to strike an effective public pose, which by itself is a big improvement over his foot-in-mouth predecessor.

His homage to St. Francis of Assisi in his choice of a name is also brilliant. It would be hard to find a more venerated figure than St. Francis by both Catholics and non-Catholics alike. It is quite amazing no previous pope ever traded on that veneration by choosing the name Francis.

The picture is not however, all painted in the colors of sweetness and light— especially not for gays. To begin with, Cardinal Bergoglio was a staunch opponent of marriage equality. In a heated exchange with Argentina’s president, Christina Kirchner, rebuking her support for LGBT equality, he said “Let us not be naïve: this is not a simple political struggle. It is an attempt to destroy God’s plan.”

Let’s say Toby is in love with Mike, and has been for many years and would really like to legally solemnize the relationship for the inherent dignity of such an act as well as for the example of openness and self-acceptance it provides for others, especially young people who struggle with their own identity. Let’s not forget the insurance, tax and other practical benefits now enjoyed by straights.

Amendment One by Mike Pettyjohn April 2013Because of all of this, God’s plan for the universe will be subverted. Bergoglio did not amplify this prediction of doom, so we do not know if he foresaw crashing comets, stars being extinguished and the Earth opening to swallow us, but we can assume that “subverting God’s plan” must entail some serious consequences.

Having thus placed marriage equality advocates firmly in the camp of the Anti- Christ, he went on to say that adoptions by same-sex couples “discriminate against children.” One might be tempted to take that criticism seriously in view of the fact that the Catholic Church has established itself as the world’s leading authority on child abuse— were it not for the well-documented fact that the church’s expertise is in the area of how to abuse and how to cover-up.

A child is far better off being cared for by a loving family, regardless of whether that family is composed of same-sex partners or not.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit— the first of that influential order to be made pope. Jesuits are known for their intellectual rigorousness, and there is little question that Francis brings intelligence and the ability to defend doctrine to the office. It is likely to be a defense however and not a reformation.

The church’s areas of growth are in highly conservative, third-world regions where gay rights, married priests and ordained women are scorned as causes. In choosing this new pope, the cardinals have played to their market. They have picked an old man who will not change the basics while at the same time presenting a highly marketable public image— a man who will make heart-felt and eloquent statements about poverty and injustice while in fact doing nothing to change the injustices long imposed by the church itself. He may well clean up the notoriously corrupt Vatican bank, and he may put some stick about it in the Curia. When it comes to doctrine, under that gentle, friend of the poor velvet glove, there is an iron fist.

When we look into Cardinal Bergoglio’s personal history we find there is a dark side— a very dark side. During Argentina’s “dirty wars,” under a military dictatorship, 1976-1983, political opponents of the regime, students, journalists, intellectuals and out-spoken priests were routinely “disappeared.”

Through it all, Bergoglio along with most of Argentina’s bishops, remained silent. Hugh O’Shaughnessy, writing two years ago in The Guardian, charged Bergoglio with being not merely silent but perhaps actually involved:

“The extent of the church’s complicity in the dark deeds was excellently set out by Horacio Verbitsky, one of Argentina’s most notable journalists, in his book El Silencio (Silence). He recounts how the Argentine navy with the connivance of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now the Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires, hid from a visiting delegation of the Inter- American Human Rights Commission the dictatorship’s political prisoners. Bergoglio was hiding them in nothing less than his holiday home in an island called El Silencio in the River Plate.

“The most shaming thing for the church is that in such circumstances Bergoglio’s name was allowed to go forward in the ballot to chose the successor of John Paul II. What scandal would not have ensued if the first pope ever to be elected from the continent of America had been revealed as an accessory to murder and false imprisonment.”

Bergoglio knows how to present an image. While fighting LGBT equality, in 2001 he visited a hospice to kiss and wash the feet of 12 AIDS patients, the only practical result of which was 12 people with clean feet while millions remain second class citizens. Bergoglio’s opposition to the distribution of free contraceptives has had a far greater impact on the AIDS crisis— by worsening it— than did the foot washing exercise.

The media has noted that, after being named pope, Bergoglio went and picked up his own bags from the conclave residence. He brings considerably more baggage with him to his new office than can be packed in a two-suiter.

Toby Grace is Out In Jersey magazine’s Editor Emeritus.

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commentary:

The new pope, Francis I, comes to the throne amidst general hosannas and a great deal of PR about his dedication to personal poverty and his touchingly worded appeals for concern for the world’s poor.

We are lovingly told how he refused to live in the Archbishop’s palace when he was elevated to the diocese of Buenos Aires, choosing instead a simple apartment. He got rid of the chauffeur-driven limo and took the bus to work.