Much news was made several weeks ago, when once again Pope Françis made a comment aboard a flight accompanied by news reporters that seemed to throw a bone to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. However, the comment—a recommendation in response to the Orlando Pulse Club massacre that the Church really ought to offer an apology to LGBT people—stopped short of any actual apology. Regardless, the comment was quickly picked up by the media as another example of Pope Françis’s progressivism and the opening up of the Church to the diversity of the 21st century.
But hold on. If the pope advocates such penitence, why aren’t Françis’s priestly army jumping on board and welcoming LGBT into the fold? Because official Church doctrine hasn’t changed one iota…
Priests and bishops seem to be stuck in a vicious cycle, which can be exemplified by the writings of Pope Françis himself when he was known as Cardinal Bergoglio in Argentina. When Argentina was considering legalizing gay marriage in 2010, then Cardinal Bergoglio, “was [supposedly] quietly lobbying for civil unions.” However:
“When that didn’t work, and the government made it clear it was moving forward on [same-sex] marriage [legalization], Bergoglio did what the Vatican expected of him and which, like a politician, he knew he likely had to do if he were ever to have a shot at becoming pope in Benedict’s Vatican: He issued an ugly, earth-scorching attack against gays, equating gay marriage and adoption by gay couples with the work of the Devil, and declared that gay marriage was a ‘destructive attack on God’s plan.’
“Those kinds of words are the kind that killers of gay people take solace in. Those are the words that empower those who bash gays, and those who fire gays from their jobs. And those are the kinds of words that Francis clearly is saying the church must apologize for. If it’s not those words, after all, then what exactly is Francis referring to?”
—Michelangelo Signorile, The Huffington Post, 07/06/2016
And this is the problem… Even if priests and bishops in the Catholic Church are sensitive and sympathetic to LGBT social issues, they are not allowed to tout any stance other than the Church’s official teaching that LGBT persons are “intrinsically disordered.” As Signorile points out in the case of Bergolgio, much of that hardline condemnation may have had to do with the politics of upward mobility. (This in itself is mind-blowingly hypocritical considering Bergoglio’s/Pope Françis’s repercussive reflections on humility.)
But if upward mobility is an ever present factor in the Catholic Church, and it presents roadblocks of conscience for upwardly ambitious consecrated soldiers of the Church, then who is going to break the vicious cycle that perpetuates the atrocities of verbal and psychological repression and discrimination and hate-mongering? Why, instead of simply raising the hyperbole of an apology, rather than suggesting that “Gee, wouldn’t it be great if the Church apologized to LGBT people?”…why not actually make the apology?? Damn it, why not actually change the catechism and official Church doctrine so that priests and bishops no longer have to be conflicted and no longer have to continue denigrating and condemning the LGBT population?
A larger and larger number of priests and bishops are advocating for change and for a more welcoming timbre by the Catholic Church towards LGBT people…while still falling short of outright acceptance of homosexuality and while falling short of blessing or normalizing same-sex unions. Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, several members of the German prelature, Archbishop Cupich of Chicago, Jesuit Fr. James Martin, to name a very scant list, all advocate opening dialogue and normalization for LGBT people in Church society… But each and every one of them is restricted from toeing beyond the line that would allow them the freedom to say that same-sex marriages and same-sex loving relationships are normal, human expressions of love and commitment, capable of the same dignity as heterosexual relationship and marriages.
It’s time to move beyond the niceties of a theoretical apology to LGBT people and time to activate significant contemporary policy and doctrinal changes that encompasses the wholeness of Christic imagination and theology. It’s time for Pope Françis to make an actual apology rather than teasing one. It’s time for the Catholic Church to repair the drawn-out errors that have perpetuated violence against LGBT people for so much of history. The Church needs to allow its congregants to stop demonizing their fellow LGBT members, rather than perpetuating confusion and creating conflicts of conscience and morality.
Time for an apology?…Why, yes, it is indeed time, Pope Françis. So when do you think can we get one???