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REFOCUS: Pope Francis versus gay culture

Gerard Veldhoven
Gerard Veldhoven - FILE

By Gerard Veldhoven

The recent controversy in Chile, where Roman Catholic bishops and priests were found guilty of sexual abuse, has found its way to the Vatican and the Pope. The man at the centre, Juan Carlos Cruz, has met with Francis to explain his feelings.

As a gay man, he chose to confront his abusers and finally was invited to Rome to discuss his feelings with the head of that church. Allegedly, Cruz was told by the Pope that, “God made you like this and he loves you.”

These words have not been publicly acknowledged and therefore cannot be substantiated. We may take the word of Cruz, but we must also hear from the Vatican to lend credence to the statement. Pope Francis may have said these words, but unless he exclaims so publicly, we must assume some caution.

The Roman Catholic Church’s moral theologian at Rome’s Pontifical Holy Cross University, Rev Robert Gahl, explains it as follows: “What the Pope was saying is, ‘God loves you and made you just as you are, and therefore you must accept yourself as you are while struggling to live according to the Gospel.’”

According to a 1992 summary of Catholic teaching, gay individuals, “do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial.” The Pope has spoken on this issue on many occasions and made attempts at reconciliation, however, words are empty unless positive action follows. Francis may be having a change of heart, but has not indicated any positive change will take place in church doctrine.

Many were impressed with Francis when he was selected to lead the church as he seemed a kind, inclusive and all-around encompassing individual. He has however, a history of denouncing gays. He was previously known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in his native Argentina. Responding to that government’s approval of same-sex marriage, he said, “Let’s not be naive, we’re 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.”

The LGBTQ community In Argentina were further incensed by the following comment by the future pope: “Gay adoption is a form of discrimination,” and added that it is a “war against God.”

A few years ago, Cardinal Ouellet of Canada, reiterated the policy of the church that changes regarding women in the church, gays, lesbians and married priests will not be considered. That leads us to conclude that the Roman Catholic Church does not anticipate any change in doctrine. Pope Francis, in an about face, seems to make some attempt at setting a friendlier tone, however, the question remains, will policy change to embrace the LGBTQ community become a reality?

To merely say that “God made you like this” does little to convince us that LGBTQ citizens are about to be completely accepted and recognized as equals to all others. On the contrary, it further confuses the issue, as Pope Francis and the Vatican remain adamant that the church will remain discriminatory in its views of the LGBTQ community. In making statements that would indicate a slight opening of the proverbial door, we are not closer to any confirmation that recognition is at hand.

The Pope has said many things since his pontificate began in 2013, but on many of those occasions he changes his tune. This latest development may be taken with a grain of salt. It is of consequence, as those LGBTQ folks within the RC church, and indeed outside, remain a target of intolerance. Discrimination is the gravest error of our time. Equal rights are human rights.

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