Pope Francis, a man I’m finding so much to admire about that I haven’t even given him a snarky nickname, was flying back to Rome from Rio the other day. He decided, as he did, to wander back to talk with the press. It was apparently a free-wheeling conversation about a number of issues, and at one point the question of gay “lobby” at the Vatican and more broadly about homosexuality within the church. The Pope had this to say:
“There’s a lot of talk about the gay lobby, but I’ve never seen it on the Vatican ID card … 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 goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … they’re our brothers.”
Now on the face of this, it doesn’t sound like much. All he’s doing, really, is reasserting the overall concept that while a tendency toward homosexuality isn’t a problem, perhaps giving into that tendency is. This seems to follow course with what he was doing during the Argentine debate on same-sex marriage, where he took a stand against it, and on gay adoptions, which he also is against.
But that said, it’s worth remembering that he seems to be a pragmatist on certain issues. When the Argentine government was clearly moving toward legalizing same-sex marriage, he changed tack and offered a compromise position of civil unions. That didn’t work, and it honestly wasn’t enough, but it was a step in the right direction.
The same with his comments recently. It’s worth remembering that his predecessor, Benny 16/Pope Gollum/Pope Palpatine, a man I never had any trouble mocking, was not just against homosexual activity, he seemed to think that even chaste, celibate gay men should not be allowed to be priests. He was taking a very different track from “hating the sin, but loving the sinner”.
And it’s worth noting that Pope Francis is not a stupid man. He made these remarks clearly knowing that they would gain wide dissemination, and knowing that people would pay close attention to them.
For a more detailed, and more Catholic, examination of this, check out what Andrew Sullivan as to say. For now I’ll stand by what I’ve said before: I don’t think this Pope will be the great liberalizer or reformer that people like me want to see. But I do think that he will set the stage for reformers and liberalizers to come.
I also want to reiterate what I’ve said in general about this Pope. While I disagree with him on certain very fundamental points, it seems like I do agree with him on many of the more important social issues of the day, and there is much I find about him to admire. I’ll take an 80% ally over a 100% enemy any day of the week.