Alas, most starry-eyed lovefests don’t last. Pope Francis, 78, with the star quality of Madonna, wowed everyone from Speaker of the House John A. Boehner to President Barack Obama to the thousands of people who waited for hours to see him last month on his first visit to the United States. Yet due to recent events, affection for his papacy has dimmed for many of us who are LGBT and our allies.
First, the pope secretly met with Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis who’s refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Then, the Vatican fired Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, a Polish priest who came out as gay the day before a three-week worldwide meeting of bishops began in Rome on Oct. 4.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m no Pope Francis hater. I’m not Catholic. But, I’d bet that many of us, believers or non-believers, would find it hard not to respect or love a pope who lives in a guest house, eats with street people, advocates for migrants and was a club bouncer (in his youth) in Argentina. From having lunch with homeless people in Washington, D.C. to visiting prisoners in Philadelphia, Francis showed his empathy and identification with people living on the margins.
“We can find no social or moral justification whatsoever for lack of housing,” the pope said. “We know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person.”
“That guy really does what Jesus did,” my brother, who’s worked in soup kitchens, told me, “He hangs out with poor people.”
Two years ago, Francis (pleasantly) surprised the LGBT community when he said, “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Francis’ charisma, compassion and commitment to economic social justice have made many of us forget that he and the Vatican consider queer sex (though not homosexuality) sinful and oppose same-sex marriage. The ouster of Monsignor Charamsa and the meeting with Kim Davis have brought this reality into stark focus.
In the aftermath of Francis’ meeting with Davis, the Vatican has said that this shouldn’t be taken to mean that the pope knew the nuances of Davis’s situation or endorses her views on same-sex marriage. But even if he didn’t know the details of Davis’ situation, it’s hard to believe that the pope didn’t sympathize with her perspective.
The Vatican fired Charamsa, who had been on the Vatican’s Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith, on the eve of the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of the Bishops on the Family. This meeting at the Vatican of some 300 bishops and other delegates at the Vatican is now discussing divorce, the church’s position on LGBT people and other issues. Charamsa revealed that he’s in a same-sex relationship in an interview with the Italian newspaper “Corriere della Sera.” The Vatican said that he was let go because the interview, which took place just before the Synod, was “grave and irresponsible.”
On the opening day of the Synod, Francis clearly opposed same-sex marriage. “This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self,” he said.
Despite the homophobia of this position, the pope seems to have friendships with LGBT people. During his time in the U.S., he had a warm meeting in D.C. with a gay man and his partner of 19 years.
Yet, it seems unlikely that the Catholic Church’s position on LGBT people will change any time soon. “The Synod is fatally flawed,” Mary E. Hunt, a lesbian, feminist theologian and co-director of Women’s Alliance for Theology Ethics and Ritual, told the Blade. “No women can vote. There are 17 heterosexually married couples and 17 individuals who are auditors. They can listen, participate in the discussion at points, but not vote.”
Any expectation that a meeting with this group will produce anything meaningful is misplaced, Hunt said. “It would be better to convene regional gatherings to discuss matters…and then gradually and with deep respect move toward new consensus,” she added.
Miracles can happen. Let’s hope that a new consensus will be reached.
Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.