Hopes for the New (Gay?) Pope

As the Conclave to elect a new pope approaches, intensifying public speculation about the papabile is met with increasing silence from the cardinal electors themselves. The world will soon closely observe a chimney for white smoke, and while no one predicts a papacy that wildly diverges from that of Benedict XVI, many LGBT individuals and advocates in the Church remain hopeful.

Perhaps most hopeful is Don Andrea Gallo, a Catholic priest and LGBT rights advocate, who points to theresignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brienfor sexual misconduct with fellow priests and rumors from Andrew Sullivan that the former Pope Benedict XVI himself is gay, as evidence that homosexuality in the clergy is a pressing issue. Pink News reports that Gallo told Italian media:

“A homosexual pope would be a magnificent thing. The essence of the Gospel is that we are all God’s sons and daughters and we are all equal as God’s children…The homosexual priest must be free to express his identity and his sexuality…”

Others write more prgamatically of expectations for a pastoral pope, who, even if he does not change the teaching of the hierarchy, can most definitely change the tone and emphasis. The Los Angeles Times profiled notable Catholic voices about their desires for the coming papacy. Fr. Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, writes of a papacy ruled by love:

“We need a pope to oversee not simply a modernization of the church but its total transformation…We need a pope to usher in a new era of inclusion, the end of a sinful clericalism, and a strong sense of duty to those on society’s margins. The 1 billion faithful long for a leader who is fearless and driven, not by terror but by love.”

Margaret Susan Thompson, a professor at Syracuse University, considers a humble and listening pope as what is needed:

“I dream of a pope who listens and appreciates that he still has a lot to learn, who trusts in the primacy of conscience and appreciates that the Holy Spirit empowers the whole body of believers, not just himself. I hope for someone who is collegial and consultative, not just with cardinals and clerics but with people in the pews (female and male) and with those outside the church.”

Faith in Public Life director John Gehring writes:

“Imagine a pope who held monthly dialogues with lay Catholics and overworked pastors who live out Gospel values from the barrios of East Los Angeles to rural villages in Kenya. Instead of silencing theologians and nuns, a pope could make it known that discussion and debate are signs of a vibrant faith…Gay and lesbian Catholics who love their church but often feel marginalized should be made to feel more welcome. Finally, a new pope might…take a cue from the simplicity of Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi. Neither had a princely residence or even a Popemobile, but their spirit and humility sparked a revolution that still lives today.”

The narrative of a Catholic hierarchy opposed to full LGBT equality and inclusion needs no illumination, and many wonder how Catholics hope for improvement given recent history under popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. A former Catholic priest from Brooklyn, John Lazar, identifies the source of any hope that a new papacy would progress on LGBT issues. In a piece in the Washington Blade, he writes:

“Yet for Catholics, there is a belief that the Holy Spirit can break through all of the Vatican politics and the sinful components from which even the leadership is not immune. Many yearn for the likes of a Pope John XXIII, who surprised the world by opening the windows of the church by convening the Second Vatican Council. Many of the teaching documents from that Council formed great pastoral leaders, like Chicago’s late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who promoted the “seamless garment” model of moral behavior promoting the total good of the individual and Brooklyn’s Bishop Francis Mugavero, whose letter on sexuality was a breath of fresh air for gay Catholics. The Holy Spirit’s work is cut out…

“The hope expressed by many LGBT Catholics, for the new leader that will be chosen by the College of Cardinals, may not have the best odds in their favor this time around. But Catholics do know that the Holy Spirit can pull some surprises, and perhaps, this Papal Conclave may result in just a few.”

As the Cardinals are sealed into the Sistine Chapel to deliberate and vote, LGBT Catholics and advocates must join with the them and Catholics worldwide in praying, “Come, holy Spirit!”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

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4 Responses to Hopes for the New (Gay?) Pope

  1. Terence says:

    It’d be perilous to make any firm predictions about the outcome of the conclave, but I’ve been fascinated by the preconclave commentary – not about the papabile, but about the extensive discussions on the need for reform This has come from all sides – from bishops, from Vatican insiders, from theologians and from seasoned Catholic journalists. Conversely, I’ve seen almost nothing arguing for more of the same, or for a more reactionary pope.

    One of the lessons we can draw from papal history, as argued by Eamon Duffy (“Saints and Sinners”) is that after a long papacy (and we should see JPII and B16 together), especially at a time of crisis for the church), the tendency is to select someone very different. That would imply someone far more pastoral than Benedict, someone younger and more open to collegiality, at the very least.

    There does seem to be good grounds to believe that the choice the cardinals will make will not be whether reform is needed – but how much, and how fast.

  2. Larry Quirk says:

    The problem with hoping for a gay Pope is that if he is gay and a cardinal he has surpressed his feelings for so very long and has drunk the Kool Aid of the current administration. He will, as a closeted gay man, be more virulently anti-gay. An irony of course.

  3. […] Hopes for the New (Gay?) Pope (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com) […]

  4. […] Hopes for the New (Gay?) Pope (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com) […]

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