Pope Francis 'Inflammatory' in Opposition to LGBT Rights

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Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, appears on the balcony at the Vatican as Pope Francis I. | VATICAN.VA
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, appears on the balcony at the Vatican as Pope Francis I. | VATICAN.VA

BY ANDY HUMM | Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, was elected Pope Francis I on March 13 despite his failure to stop the progressive government of President Cristina Kirchner from opening marriage to same-sex couples — the first Latin American country to do so — and from making contraceptives available to all.

He also presided over the Church in a country where two-thirds of the people are Roman Catholic but less than 20 percent attend Mass regularly.

Bergoglio condemned opening adoptions and marriage to gay couples as a threat to children, writing, “At stake is the identity and survival of the family — father, mother, and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”

President Kirchner condemned his pronouncements as reminiscent of “medieval times and the Inquisition.”

The Argentine LGBT Federation expressed “deep regret” at Bergoglio’s election, saying in a statement that it “marks a clear desire of the Vatican to radicalize its position against the recognition of diverse family structures.”

The group cited in particular his reference to marriage equality as “the plan of the devil.”

Esteban Paulón, its president, said the group was not optimistic given the new pope’s record, but added, “Perhaps the fact that Pope Francis has lived in a country where marriage equality is a reality and none of the catastrophes he predicted have come to pass might make him reconsider his negative stand on issues related to equality.”

Paulón called on Francis, as a first step, to reverse Vatican opposition to the United Nations declaration calling for an end to the criminalization of homosexuality.

The New York Times reported that as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he pushed his fellow bishops to support civil unions as a way to stop the momentum of the marriage equality bill in 2010. The majority of the bishops overruled him, but a right-wing senator, Liliana Negre de Alonso, a member of the ultraconservative Catholic group Opus Dei, introduced such a bill only to see it shot down in the national parliament for creating a “separate-but-equal” status for gay couples, J. Lester Feder reported on BuzzFeed.

Feder wrote that Bergoglio was publicly so “tone-deaf” in opposing marriage equality “that many observers credit him with helping the law pass.” But Feder also wrote that the former prelate learned from “the mistakes his Church made” in the fight and that the Argentine Church “moderated its tone when fighting social issues” after its loss on marriage.

The Times also reported that Bergoglio met twice with gay activist and theologian Marcelo Márquez, who said, “He told me that homosexuals need to have recognized rights and that he supported civil unions, but not same-sex marriage.”

But Francis is from a group of men — the cardinals who elected him — who have been unanimous in their opposition to any form of legal protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Indeed, no one got to be so much as a bishop under the Pope Benedict XVI or his predecessor, John Paul II, unless they enthusiastically opposed LGBT rights, women’s ordination, abortion, and even artificial contraception.

The greatest controversy surrounding the new pope, however, is his role as leader of the Jesuits in Argentina during the “Dirty War” there beginning in the late 1970s, when a repressive junta murdered thousands and cracked down on dissent, including Catholic liberation theologian priests. Just as Pope Pius XII disgraced himself by not speaking out against Nazi barbarism during World War II, Bergoglio was silent during the junta and Church leaders supported it. It was not until 2010 that the bishops of Argentina apologized for the Church’s role in that period, but while doing so they attacked the leftist guerillas along with the right-wing military oppressors.

Like Pius, he is credited with quietly saving some lives behind the scenes, but he was extremely uncooperative with a 2010 investigation into the crimes of the junta.

The Vatican hit back early against charges that Bergoglio was complicit in aiding the junta, though it is irrefutable that he never spoke out publicly against the excesses of the regime during its reign of terror.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel offered a nuanced take on Francis’ role during that era.

“He is questioned for not having done all he could do,” he said. “But he was never an ally of the dictatorsh­ip.”

Francis is the first pope from Latin America and the first Jesuit, but took his name as pope from St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscans, rather than Francis Xavier, a fellow Jesuit.

Initial press reports have focused on the new pope’s commitment to the poor and to living a simple personal life — riding the bus, cooking his own food, and living in an austere apartment rather than the opulent official cardinal’s residence in Buenos Aires.

His biographer, Sergio Rubin, told the Associated Press that the pope is not “a progressive” or “a liberation theologist,” but that he “does criticize the International Monetary Fund and neoliberal­ism” and does “spend a great deal of time in the slums.”

Father Bernárd Lynch, an out gay Catholic priest persecuted under Pope Benedict XVI for his advocacy for LGBT rights in the Church and the larger society, told Gay City News from his home in London, “He’s a very interesting choice. I don’t know a lot about him. The impression is that he is indeed a holy and humble man — my sources say a simple man — and all that speaks well for those like me who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. But he is vehemently anti-gay.”

Lynch, who served Dignity/ New York, the gay Catholic group, and ran a groundbreaking AIDS ministry in New York in the 1980s, said, “Homophobia is a litmus test of orthodoxy” for Catholic prelates these days. He also cited Bergoglio’s conflicts with Kirchner on LGBT issues, though he understands that they have “made up in a sense” since the fight over same-sex marriage. Indeed, the two met in Rome prior to his inauguration.

Lynch said, “It could be more difficult for us because he is a champion of the poor. And we say that’s the way we want it, but where do we fit in? Are we not poor in how we have been treated by the Church? Can you not make space for us at the table? I don’t see any light in terms of us. I’m tired of asking for bread and getting a stone.”

Brendan Fay, an Irish Catholic gay activist and Dignity/ New York member, said, “My first impression is hopeful,” given the pope’s humble style and concern for the poor, “but we need to continue to work for change at the grassroots level. We can’t have a naïve expectation that there will be any leadership from a pope on the ordination of women or the recognition of marriage equality.”

John Allen, a veteran Vatican correspondent, said on CNN that when it comes to issues such as gay marriage, “you are not going to see reform,” but cited the new pope’s pastoral concern by noting that he “went to an AIDS hospice and washed the feet of a person with AIDS.”

Dignity/ USA executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke said in a written statement, “We applaud the cardinals for their recognition of the rising energy of the Catholic Church in the global South” and are “encouraged by Pope Francis’ clear commitment to the poor.” But, she added, “We acknowledge that as archbishop and cardinal the man who is now Pope Francis has made some very harsh and inflammatory statements about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. We recognize that sometimes this new job on which he embarks can change the man called to it.”

Duddy-Burke invited the new pope to “learn about our lives, our faith, and our families before he makes any papal pronouncements about us.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic who was part of the official US delegation to the inauguration of Francis, told Gay City News that she reported to her House colleagues she was encouraged by his calls “for respect for all of God’s children. I like the word ‘all.’” Pelosi added, “I hope there will be a relaxation of attitudes to the LGBT community.”

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, Father John McNeill, a gay theologian expelled from the Jesuits by Ratzinger in 1986, hailed the selection of someone so “rigid” that many Catholics might finally wean themselves from an immature dependence on a top-down system of Church governance beholden to what “father says.”

The danger in Francis — at first blush a more appealing human figure than the austere Benedict — is that he will help prop up a male-controlled, corrupt hierarchy that keeps rank-and-file Catholics from taking responsibility for what their own consciences tell them about issues such as sexuality and gender.


Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

Perley J. Thibodeau says:
I was told on the tanning rock in Central Park's Ramble seventeen years ago by a young man from Argentina that the Argentine Navy is comprised of all Homosexuals. Tell me, would you rather go Catholic or Navy?
March 13, 2013, 9:08 pm
Doug Robinson says:
Thank you Andy Humm for giving us the facts about this pope! Our communities must know the truth about this man and what we are facing!!!
March 13, 2013, 10:42 pm
sam esposito says:
this new pope went to a gay hospice and he actually sat and washed the feet of the gay people who had aids and he wanshed their feet and than kissed their feet and gave them forgiveness of their sins. I do not think he is homophobic but i do think he has no choice but to uohold the teachings of the church. I believe that he will sttempt to turn the church to a modern day church and hopefully drive us to a more accetance of gay people, gay amrriages etc etc. before everyone goes and judges him understand that Bill Clinton as gay friendly and supportive as he was had no choice but to sign legislation called doma and he did not want to do it but at the time the country demanded it and he did what at that time was commanded of him. i do not agree but i understand that most times men in powerful positions are really powerless when it comes to real change. This pope I think is the closest we have ever come to a pope that understands homosexuality and i think he supports us in his heart but he has to now convince the very people that voted him in office that the church needs to be more accetance to our needs. give him a chance. they are going to come around it is only a matter of time.
March 13, 2013, 11:33 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
All a baptized catholic has to do is make a good confession on their death bed and denounce their former earthly sins, and they go right to the Golden Gates of Heaven. I fully intend to say that I have been a baptized Roman Catholic two days short of my entire life, I never should have more or less pulled away from the church as far as attending mass and confession is concerned, now hand me the key to the heavenly door. I'm really enthralled with all the famous scum of the earth that did just this and should be waiting there to greet me.
March 14, 2013, 12:17 am
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
"Beware the Ides of March We're here to bury the Catholic Church not to praise it!"
March 14, 2013, 1:18 am
Andy Humm says:
Sam, it is easy to show compassion for people dying of AIDS. But where is the EVIDENCE that he is more enlightened about gay people or would even consider ending the church's hateful teaching that all homosexual activity is mortally sinful? The words he used to oppose same-sex marriage in Argentina were indeed extremely inflammatory, saying that we gay people are a threat to children and the family.
March 14, 2013, 9:54 am
dakotahgeo says:
I think you are on to something regarding Pope Francis I. Someone does, however, need to remind him that he will be given a very short time to change the church, or he will become as redundant as Benny the Benedictine and the recalcitrant African nations are now. Time to wake up and smell the coffee, Pope!
March 14, 2013, 2:44 pm
Stuart Baanstra says:
...and we know how gorgeous some of those Argentine men are!
March 14, 2013, 4:50 pm
Stuart Baanstra says:
Yeah, right Sam, and I guess you believe Christine Quinn is true to the queer community?
March 14, 2013, 4:55 pm
Stuart Baanstra says:
The new Pope is also accused of collaborating with the former military junta that killed thousands of Argentine dissidents. Is washing feet and living in austere living quarters his only credentials?
March 14, 2013, 4:58 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
March 14, 2013, 7:17 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
Oh, being humble by choosing a life living with poor people in poverty.. I told the Time Warner cable man on the elevator the other day that I worked for and turned down a movie contract with Warner Brothers Pictures fifty two years ago. He asked me if I did that then why am I living here in the projects. I told him it's because I turned down a movie contract with Warner Brothers Pictures fifty two years ago. I told him that I also turned down a legitimate Broadway show. back then, also. Being humble and living with poor people in poverty is one thing, but I must admit it doesn't help that Bloomberg is making all of us a whole lot poorer!
March 14, 2013, 7:30 pm
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March 14, 2013, 7:42 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
Did you see the story in the New York Daily News today about the woman who claims when she and the current pope were twleve years old he told her if she wouldn't marry him he'd become a priest. She said no and he became a priest. To think that she could have become Mrs. Jesus Chirst here on earth.
March 15, 2013, 4:08 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
That's Jesus Christ. J.E.S.U.S C.H.R.I.S.T.
March 15, 2013, 4:31 pm
Jane says:
Here we go again. Anti-catholicism is how to make friends. I have challanged many on the gay Community to post of the actions of Bill Donohue from the Catholic League - He is in our backyard,,,,but we insist on going after Popes. Donohue is inflammatory, anti-everything and a poor spokesperson for the catholic Church. If you really want to do something (You have the pen, not me) start where it counts,,,,,right in your own back yard. You guys are no better than people attacking the President because their school taxes went up. Willing to take the challenge?
March 16, 2013, 3:08 pm
Doug Robinson says:
Challenging bigotry on all fronts is paramount. Whether it is on the local, national or international fronts, keeping all leaderships accountable is my direction. Fighting amongst ourselves is only counter productive, Jane. Bigotry is bigotry. Lets be positive and supportive of all our brothers and sisters fighting the good fight.
March 16, 2013, 3:33 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
It doesn't take silver chalices, golden candelabra, or great wealth to worship God. All we have to say is, "I love you, God." Now, how much did that cost?
March 16, 2013, 7:09 pm
WestSide Observer says:
It's nice to see that even on St. Patrick's Day, anti-Catholicism is alive and well at the Gay City News. People can "accuse" anyone of anything, but that proves nothing except the willingness of bigots to throw mud. Joe McCarthy knew a lot about that. The head of the commission investigating the junta has absolved Pope Francis, but that appears not to appease the bigots here. And regurgitating more specious charges against Pope Pius again proves nothing. What did the Jews, Protestants, or even our own government do to help the Jews during WW2? Damn little. So, to all the bigots out there: Happy St. Patrick's Day!
March 17, 2013, 11:22 am
WestSide Observer says:
When was the last time you attacked the Baptists, Presbyterians,etc, and most Jewish congregations for their anti-LGBT bias? When?
March 17, 2013, 11:25 am
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
March 17, 2013, 12:39 pm
Doug Robinson says:
Dear WestSide Observer, The Pope doesn't corner the market on making homophobic statements. This article was about the election of the Pope. That is where my comments were made. The point here is do you agree which the Pope's views on our lives? That is the question at hand. I do however appreciate your comments. I agree that all organized religious groups when attacking our brothers and sister throughout the world must be held accountable. Be well, doug
March 18, 2013, 10:32 pm
Stuart Baanstra says:
Andy (back a few replies), I don't know about being a "threat to children and the family", but we're certainly a threat to heterosexuality. It's the church's teachings (and let's not forget it has it's roots in judaism) that homosexuality is an abomination that's the reason most people are straight.
May 15, 2013, 8:37 pm
Stuart Baanstra says:
Westside, "What did the to help the Jews during WW2"? No wonder you're confused about Pope Pus!
May 15, 2013, 10:08 pm
Stuart Baanstra says:
Westside, do you agree the new pope should also be called pope Pus?
May 15, 2013, 11:45 pm
Stuart Baanstra says:
Jane, I agree with you, and we can start by not going after marriage. I mean, isn't it all about heterosexual intercourse, which is just a glorified w*nk?
May 16, 2013, 12:04 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
Perley, "I love you, god"? Gay people are flesh-starved!
May 16, 2013, 12:20 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
What's more, I blame him for everything!
May 16, 2013, 12:24 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
Perley, are you suggesting deity worship? I don't know which is worse, the "chalices, candelabra, or great wealth", or your violins!
May 16, 2013, 4:35 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
Perley, I prefer the jewish baptism. They hop completely starkers into the most public of swimming pools. Now, if everyone was doing that, it would certainly be Heaven on Earth!
May 16, 2013, 4:43 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
Don't worry Perley. Queer people will prove there's no god!
May 16, 2013, 5:06 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
On Bloomberg, does it help knowing that all jewish people are buried in a pine box?
May 16, 2013, 5:10 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
It's never too late to find a twelve year old!
May 16, 2013, 5:14 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
"...and most Jewish congregations for their anti-LGBT bias"? Check out any jewish bible in any of the reform/progressive synagogues and they all say homosexuality is an abomination. They're so schizophrenic!
May 16, 2013, 5:30 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
"Fighting amongst ourselves is only counterproductive"? Doug, wake up and realise the grass is green. It's not other gay men we love!
May 16, 2013, 5:58 am
Skyler says:
I agree because if condemnation, ridicule, death in some cases, and persecution are our trials as gay men & women I'm sure most of us would prefer not to join.
May 16, 2013, 12:44 pm
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