Pope Francis: Church Must Apologize To Gay People, Others

Jim Burroway

June 27th, 2016

The Roman Catholic Church is often misunderstood as some kind of an absolute monarchy with the Pope undisputedly on top and all of the bishops lined up and acting on the Pope’s orders. If only that were true when we have news like this:

Pope FrancisFrancis was asked Sunday en route home from Armenia if he agreed with one of his top advisers, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who told a conference in Dublin in the days after the deadly Orlando gay club attack that the church owes an apology to gays for having marginalized them.

…He said some politicized behaviors of the homosexual community can be condemned for being “a bit offensive for others.” But he said: “Someone who has this condition, who has good will and is searching for God, who are we to judge?”

“We must accompany them,” Francis said.

“I think the church must not only apologize … to a gay person it offended, but we must apologize to the poor, to women who have been exploited, to children forced into labor, apologize for having blessed so many weapons” and for having failed to accompany families who faced divorces or experienced other problems.

It’s undeniable that no other Pope has spoken like this in the history of the Church. Just two years ago, comments like this coming from Francis were such a startling break from the past that they seemed to portend some rather huge changes in how the Church approaches LGBT Catholics. I, too, got caught up in that excitement, only to see the conservative old guard come roaring back. So now, I think the more correct perspective is this: when the Church moves, it does so at a snail’s pace, often while leaving a trail of slime behind it.

So while Francis can’t snap his fingers and expect his bishops to fall into line, it does appear that we are starting to see that a tiny number of those bishops are starting to get the message. In addition to Cardinal Marx, we have Bishop Robert Lynch of the St. Petersburg diocese, who wrote in the wake of the Orlando attacks that “sadly it is religion, including our own, that targets, mostly verbally, and often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people.”

Hardliners are still firmly in charge where they think it matters, in the Church’s governing structures. But hardliners also prevail  where they really do matter: in Catholic media and among individual priests and deacons in the local parishes. For those who are looking for reasons to despair, you need look no further than at some of these parishes, particularly those being run by younger priests who were attracted to the seminary under Pope John Paul’s more absolutist papacy. In one of the great ironies of our age, it’s the older priests who came of age in the 1960s and are now reaching retirement age who are far more likely to be amenable to Francis’s message.

But as James Joyce observed when he defined Catholicism in Finnegan’s Wake (“Catholic means ‘Here comes everybody'”), those hardliners are increasingly being seen as out of step among ordinary Catholics in the pews. And that’s where, more often than not, those hardliners make their first real contact reality. And this is where that famous Catholic accomodation takes place. You’ve seen it before, in the way that Catholics in the pews responded to the Church’s teaching on birth control. It’s also the way 58% of them are now responding to the Church’s teaching on civil marriage for same-sex couples: we’ll let you pretend to be our leaders, and maybe we’ll pretend we’re paying attention.

That accommodation worked pretty well with birth control because hardliners couldn’t actually gain entrance into their parishioners’ bedrooms. But it won’t get far with LGBT people because those in charge can — and do — deny marriage rites, baptisms, school enrollment, health insurance, adoption services, and even a spot in the church choir. Far worse still, many of them openly endorse ex-gay programs for LGBT youth. So while I’m always thrilled to see Pope Francis saying these kinds of thing, I’m not going to get too excited and say it is unprecedented or far-reaching or groundbreaking. Nor will I use any other adjective to suggest that change is just around the corner. It was exciting to hear it in 2013. Let’s just say the novelty has worn off since then.

Ben in oakland

June 27th, 2016

Interesting choice of words, Frank.

The Church SHOULD ask forgiveness. Not WILL, not IS, not GOING TO, not MORALLY OBLIGATED TO. And nothing about changing the policies implemented Around the world intended to harm us.

As long as the catechism says “inherent tendency towards grave moral evil”, states that there is such a thing as just and unjust discrimination against gay people, the bishops of malawi state that prison is a good thing with no rebuke from this pope, and the church continues to fight against ending all discrimination while pretending to “love” us, this pope is just blowing smoke out of his posterior.

I will agree that he sounds better than the last two poops, but actions speak a lot louder than words.


June 27th, 2016

Yeah. This. This pope, Feb 2015:

Still destroying families.


June 27th, 2016

He should start with apologies himself, since when he was a cardinal in Argentina, he called efforts to legalize gay marriage the plan of the Father of Lies (Satan).

But of course that was in Spanish, so most Americans and anglophones are utterly clueless about the golden nuggets this guy has dropped himself.

He speaks out for the poor, so progressives try to paint this guy as some socialist-lite champion of the oppressed, when he leads and promotes and institution that has caused that very oppression.

He could start by preventing Catholic universities and high schools from firing gay teachers and expelling gay students, and from suggesting that married gay employees get a divorce to keep their jobs.

Priya Lynn

June 27th, 2016

The pope is partly responsible for the marginalization of LGBT people as is the church doctrine that he and the church refuse to change.

The pope and the church are still willingly contributing to the oppression of LGBT people, the pope’s claim that an apology is owed means nothing until the pope and the church completely stop and repent from their attacks on LGBT people.

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