Pope Francis got the reception in America usually reserved for rock stars. He speaks with charm and oozes love. He talks of inclusion. But we must remember that no matter how much love and charm he exudes, he is still opposed to gay marriage, believing marriage is between one man and one woman; he’s against abortion at any time; and he leads an institution that believes women are not equal to men and that has a major problem with pedophilia among its leadership.
On his flight back to Rome he responded to a question about whether government officials should be allowed to object to certain duties — such as certifying same-sex marriages. He responded, “I can’t have in mind all the cases that can exist about conscientious objection … but yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.” What he wasn’t asked is whether the conscientious objector should be willing to accept the consequences, be it jail or loss of their job.
Yet we shouldn’t totally disregard the love and charm. The pope demonstrates that you can disagree but not stop talking or respecting each other. You get the impression from some of the things the pope said that he actually understands the separation of church and state in the United States.
Jaweed Kaleem wrote, “Pope Francis … made his most concrete reference to gay marriages that are now legal on American soil when he spoke Sunday morning to bishops gathered at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He spoke of the ‘unprecedented changes’ having ‘social, cultural and, unfortunately, now juridical effects on family bonds.’ While not actually using the word gay, which he has used before he ‘told bishops the solution to responding to a society that no longer agrees with church doctrine is not to rehash the church’s views, but instead reach out to spread their faith through friendship. Gratitude and appreciation should prevail over concerns and complaints.’ … The pope encouraged bishops to not give up on young people who often don’t hold the same values as the church on family and marriage.”
In addition to talking about gay marriage, the Pope met with victims of sexual abuse and agreed to create a new Vatican tribunal to prosecute bishops who failed to protect their flock by covering up for pedophile priests.
In his speech to Congress he highlighted the work of Dorothy Day, a radical socialist who was a suffragette and who founded the Catholic Worker’s Party. Day also had an abortion. He also spoke for immigrants and said, “Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves.”
I am a reform Jew and the God I believe in is inclusive and welcomes all people. It appears Pope Francis wants the Catholic Church to be more welcoming to all people as well, even the ones who don’t agree with its teachings. He spoke out on making annulments of marriages easier, and allowing women who have had abortions to receive communion. I don’t know if that is satisfying to Catholics if divorce and abortion are still considered sins in the eyes of his God. No major institution is easy to change. No religion fully agrees with the principle “live and let live.” Orthodox Jews in my religion are as intolerant as anyone of those who don’t share their beliefs.
But I respect the efforts of Pope Francis, who is at least trying to sound more inclusive. We can only hope Francis will live long enough to have his views trickle down to local parishes and appoint enough new Cardinals so that the next pope won’t be inclined to move the church backwards. It’s a little like hoping none of the current Republicans running for president is the person to succeed Barack Obama.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He is a regular contributor to the Blade.