So, the new Pope was sworn in today and an adoring fan told the New York Times: “He wouldn’t stop kissing a baby in his tour on the pope mobile earlier, right here, in front of me.” At which point one Cardinal turned to another and said, “Who does Francis think he is? He’s been Pope for fifteen minutes and he’s already stolen my date.”
All kidding aside, (I think we are kidding, but you never know with this bunch), it is good to see the new Pope focus on poverty and not act as pretentious and pompous as the last old guy in a white dress. Here is what Francis I said:
“He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked St. Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison.”
One can’t help but notice, however, that LGBT people were pointedly excluded from the Pope’s “love-in.” If he were truly interested in helping the desperate around the globe, he would immediately call for the cessation of all homophobia and abolition of all anti-gay laws worldwide. After all, who among God’s people is more vulnerable than the gay man living in Uganda? Who is more desperate than the lesbian couple raising a child in Jamaica? Who is weaker than the LGBT youth trying to live an authentic life in Saudi Arabia or Iran? Who is more defenseless than the young lesbian in Africa who is a victim of “corrective rape” to turn her from gay to straight? Who is more persecuted than the gay rights activist facing down neo-Nazi’s and dodging eggs and bottles in Putin’s neo-czarist Russia?
What will the new Pope do for these people? Will he lend a helping hand or cause lasting harm by clubbing the LGBT downtrodden with venomous words that encourage his followers to stigmatize or even commit violence?
I suppose Francis I does not consider lowly homosexuals “God’s People.” While he served as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio wrote while opposing a marriage equality bill:
“Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
Yes, let’s not be naive. The chances of anything nice coming out of Francis I mouth on LGBT rights is slim to none. The best we can hope for is that he deemphasizes culture war issues and continues trying to uplift the downtrodden. The new Pope can either go down in history as a man of hope or hate. The choice is his and we hope he chooses the right path. But, we do know that his legacy partially hinges on how he handles LGBT issues.