Catholic–And Cosmopolitan–Responses to the Pope’s Gay Statement

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Since starting this blog over 18 months ago, I have never had such a hard time keeping up with Catholic LGBT news and commentary than in the last two days as articles keep popping up about Pope Francis’ statement which was heard around the gay and Catholic world.  Not even the Supreme Court’s marriage decisions in June generated this much electronic “ink.”

Yesterday, we supplied you with the first round of comments from Catholic writers and organizations.  Today we will try to continue that sampling from some of the best that we have seen from Catholics–and one “cosmopolitan” response that you will have to read to the end to discover!

Like yesterday, you will probably notice a range of opinions, though mostly people are positive.  Let us and others know what you think by posting your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

Richard Galliardetz

Richard Galliardetz

One of the common themes of the commentary I read was whether Francis’ change in tone is really significant?  Professor Richard Galliardetz of Boston College, who this year serves as President of the Catholic Theological Society of America,  answered both of those quandaries in a Religion News Service article:

‘This may be a matter of “style” in some sense, but in this case style matters,’ Gaillardetz explained in a statement that echoed the poet Robert Frost. ‘One can appeal to our doctrinal tradition in order to justify moral rigidity and exclusionary attitudes or one can appeal to our doctrinal tradition as a call to be instruments of mercy and compassion. Francis has chosen the latter course and it has made all the difference!’ ”

Mary Hunt

Mary Hunt

Catholic lesbian theologian Mary Hunt was more guarded in her praise of Pope Francis’ comments, noting particularly that the interview in which he made the statement about gay priests also contained a strong denial of the possibility of ordaining women to the Catholic priesthood.  Hunt’s conclusion in a Religion Dispatches essay:

“The proof of whether this off the cuff press conference, following a well-staged week in Brazil, signals real change will unfold in the months ahead. Will there be stirrings of democracy, a Vatican spring complete with líos [translated: "mess," referring to the pope's statement to young people to "go, make a mess" in the world] in every diocese capable of upending a kyriarchal church and letting a mature, diverse community emerge? Will women finally and definitively share power with men in a democratic church? Or, will there simply be a little tweaking of the rules to make sure that a few favored sons who happen to be gay can remain in power?”

One person who is uniquely qualified to comment on the pope’s comment is Fr. Gary Meier, a St. Louis Archdiocese priest, who came out publicly as gay earlier this spring.  In a CNN blog post, Fr. Meier expressed cautious optimism about the news:

Father Gary Meier

Father Gary Meier

“I am optimistic, that our Pope’s comments can lead to greater love and acceptance of the LGBT community. And at the same time, I am cautious – cautious that the change in tone and attitude represented by the Pope’s statement will not lead to a change in theology and doctrine which so desperately needs to change.

“My prayer for the church is that we might take this opportunity to stop causing harm, to stop being judgmental and to become more welcoming; more inviting; more loving towards all people, especially those who are marginalized and ostracized.”

Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata

Mary Ellen and Casey Lopata

Speaking from the perspective of parents of LGBT people, Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata of Fortunate Families welcomed the pope’s statement.  A WHEC.com news story noted:

“Casey Lopata said, ‘This has opened a door. It seems to signal a willingness to dialogue.’

“Casey Lopata says it is reminiscent of something that happened in Rochester 16 years ago.

“ ‘Back in 1997, here in Rochester, Bishop Clark said a mass with gay and lesbian people, family and friends at the time a lot of people weren’t very happy with it and he later wrote an article in the Catholic Courier and title of the article said, ‘Listen, leave the judgment to God’ and that’s exactly what Pope Francis said today.’”

Mary Ellen was quoted in an NBCNews.com story:

“I sense what he is saying is that we are all children of God and we need to treat each other that way regardless of our sexual orientation,” she said. “If that is indeed what he is saying, I think that is a good step forward for reconciling with gay and lesbian people around the world, and also their families.

“Much that’s been said in past years by church leaders has been very hurtful not only to gay and lesbian people but to their families as well.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

That same NBCNews.com story also provided the perspective of LGBT Catholics themselves through the voice of Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA.  Beginning with a quote from Francis’ statement, Duddy-Burke said:

“ ‘If someone loves the Lord and has goodwill’ [Francis' statement] — the reality of that describes an awful lot of LGBT people,’ she said. ‘There are a lot of LGBT people of faith who are working very hard to hold onto their faith and I think it would be important for us to bring our stories to the pope and other church leaders to move this conversation forward.’

“A key step would be bridging the gap between some church leaders who engage in anti-gay rhetoric and their parishioners, many whom support LGBT rights, Duddy-Burke said. Fifty-four percent of Catholics support same-sex marriage, according to a Pew Forum poll released earlier this year.

“ ‘If Francis can be an instrument in healing that divide, we would certainly welcome that and are happy to partner with him,” she said, while noting that only time would tell what impact his remarks would have on daily life.’ “

Sister Marian Durkin

Sister Marian Durkin

The perspective of a pastoral minister who works with lesbian and gay Catholics was offered by Sister Marian Durkin, CSA, in The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

” ‘I appreciate Pope Francis’ compassionate look at homosexuality in the church,’ said Sister Marian Durkin of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine. ‘There are gay men in the priesthood, there always have been. And they serve God’s people with great integrity and love.’

“Durkin has worked in a local outreach ministry for gay Catholics for 20 years. She holds an annual retreat for homosexual Catholics and their parents at the Jesuit Retreat House in Parma.

“ ‘I’m delighted whenever there’s good press about gays and lesbians,’ she said. ‘Francis is a breath of fresh air.’ ”

Stephen Pope

Stephen Pope

Portland, Maine’s Press Herald offered the perspective of a theologian who notes the pragmatic effect the pope’s statement can have:

“Stephen Pope, professor of theology at Boston College, said Francis’ comments were consistent with his other efforts to address declining church membership by reaching out to a more diverse audience.

“That approach stands in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, he said.

” ‘I think Pope Benedict’s philosophy was to say, “Let them go. We’ll have a smaller church but more pure,” ‘ Pope said. “Pope Francis has sort of adopted this strategy of meeting people where they are and looking for commonality.’ “

Chad Pecknold

Chad Pecknold

Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, noted, in a Baltimore Sun article, that the pope’s statement was not really “off the cuff,” and was, in fact, an invitation to dialogue:

” ‘The message of mercy, I think, is one he is sounding out on every single issue that the culture has identified as one it rejects the church’s teachings on,’ Pecknold said. ‘What Francis wants to say is, “Let’s talk.” ‘

“The pope offered his thoughts in a remarkably open news conference in response to questions about rumors of a ‘lobby’ of gay priests seeking to influence the Vatican. He said he disapproved of any such lobby or influence, but distinguished influence-seekers from priests who might happen to be gay.

“Pecknold said it was important to consider that context when reading the pope’s comments, but he also said the pontiff would have been aware that his comments to international journalists about homosexuality would have been viewed in a broader context.

” ‘We’re going to hear this over and over and over again,’ Pecknold said. ‘The way in which Francis wants to initiate a conversation, the way in which he wants to invite a conversation, is through this message of mercy.’ “

James Salt

James Salt

The youth perspective was offered by James Salt of Catholics United, a political organizing group, in an Agence France-Presse article:

“. . . Catholics United, which has been very critical of Church leadership, said Francis’ comments ‘speak to what every young person knows: God loves gay people, and so should the Catholic Church.’

” ‘Pope Francis’ call for the acceptance of gay priests is a direct repudiation of the backward beliefs of many ultra-conservative ideologues in the Church,’ the group’s leader James Salt said in a statement.

” ‘This statement on gay people, while largely symbolic, is a big step in the right way.’ “

CosmopolitanAnd we close out with a decidedly non-Catholic perspective: Michelle Ruiz, a blogger at Cosmpolitan magazine:

“A lot of arguments against gay marriage and even homosexuality in general point to religion: ‘The Bible says God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,’ anti-gay groups have been known to say. But now the leader of the Catholic church himself, Pope Francis, is coming out in support of gays. Can we get a Hallelujah?

” ‘If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?’ Francis told reporters yesterday while on an overnight flight from Brazil (for his first foreign trip) back to Rome.

“Francis was responding directly to a question about gay Catholic priests, and his answer is groundbreaking because his more conservative predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was so against gay clergy, he signed an official document in 2005 saying homosexual men should not be allowed to serve the church.

“So if Francis is cool with gay priests, perhaps gay marriage has a prayer in the church? “

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

12 Responses to Catholic–And Cosmopolitan–Responses to the Pope’s Gay Statement

  1. The real test of Francis’ pastoral concern will be whether he revokes Ratzinger’s edict prohibiting gay candidates for priesthood. Having come this far can he not revoke the edict?.

  2. Anton says:

    Even Jesus didn’t choose his 12 out of the same cloth, so to speak, and even chastised James and John who wanted to call fire down on the Samaritans for a lack of hospitality. Many “sinners” were flocking to see and touch him and he didn’t turn them away. He put into action the words of Isaiah: ” A bruised reed I will not break, and a smouldering wick I will not quench.” It’s amazing that so many LGBT persons hang on to Jesus when battered by so-called leaders in the church. Pope Francis is imitating his namesake. He’s kissing the lepers

  3. […] Catholic–And Cosmopolitan–Responses to the Pope’s Gay Statement |  […]

    • Gary Meier’s statement, “I am optimistic, that our Pope’s comments can lead to greater love and acceptance of the LGBT community.” Accepting is still a negative and judgmental indicating the one who “accepts” is somehow better than the one being “accepted.”

  4. […] Ignatius make of his spiritual descendant, Pope Francis? Would the Basque ex-soldier be all, “Holy cow you guys did you see what the pope said about gay people“? Or would he be like, “Don’t be fooled you guys this pope is not a swinging […]

  5. Michael Watkins says:

    Hopefully the seamless garment ideology is being replaced by
    the mess as taught by Christ.

  6. Carole Joyce says:

    It’s apparent that Francis’ remarks have raised hopes of the possible acceptance by the Catholic Church of
    the LGBT community’s lifestyles including gay marriage.

    Could anyone explain to me the justification of the B’s inclusion in LGBT? I don’t get it at all and can’t see
    even a remote possibility of validation of this behavior in the Church.

    I think the cause would be better served if the B’s were cut loose.

    • Carole,

      I infer from your statement that you may think that bisexual people want to have both men and women as sexual partners. That isn’t what most bisexual people report as their experience. More often they say not that they are attracted to both and can’t make up their minds or are always wanting something else, but, more accurately, that the gender of the person they fall in love with does not matter to them. Most bisexual people who want a relationship usually choose one person of either gender and live a committed life with them. Bisexuality is just one “location” on the spectrum of orientation. It doesn’t imply sexual promiscuity.

      I hope this helps your understanding, if I inferred your statement correctly. If not, I would like to learn what you meant.

  7. Kevin says:

    I wonder if we feel like starving children, desperate for nourishment, and projecting our hopes, dreams and even our fears onto Peter’s hand when it finally stretched out to feed us. We would all do good to stop, take a deep breath and turn to prayer before speaking or writing anything.

    I have several concerns which fall into 2 categories: 1. We are not paying attention to all that Pope Francis said and, related, 2. We are speaking and writing without giving adequate thought to how our words might be heard.

    First, the use of political lobbying and rhetoric is the very thing the pope said is the problem! “The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem.” And this is exactly where many people are going. We should not conflate politics and religion. Our goal is to follow Jesus Christ, and so pastoral terminology should be used to that end.

    Take a look at the terminology used by some; it betrays whether one is on a pastoral or political road. I am in no way criticizing those who made the comments but am simply calling attention to the words we use.

    • For example, “stirrings of democracy” is not only reading a lot into what he said, it is clearly politicizing it. And it would be a weak model for Church.
    • Even more alarming, for any individual or group to say they “are happy to partner with him [the pope]” does not seem to understand the Petrine ministry. The pope is visible and living symbol of unity. In fact, the statement sets up an adversarial and political relationship: one does not “partner” with the pope. “Dialogue with him” would have been much better.
    • “Pope Francis has sort of adopted this strategy…” again, political (not pastoral) terminology.

    To set Francis up as the “anti-Benedict” will not bode well for any ongoing dialogue, and may prove to be an impediment for progress. Popes will not embarrass their predecessors, especially when this one is still alive! Need I cite past examples of people who put a pope, cardinal or other bishop in an embarrassing situation and then ended up disappointed? Those groups who continue this strategy will end up out of the conversation, or worse, may cause it to end. We must find ways to be (yes) inclusive by casting new lights on what has already been said. Simply, how is it constructive to embarrass the people or structures which hold the ability to address what needs to be addressed?! Being embarrassed or insulted often leads one to defensiveness, not openness.

    Of less theological value but still relevant is Cosmopolitan’s statement. “…Pope Francis is coming out in support of gays.” Any pope or theologian would say they have always been supportive of gays, then go on to distinguish sinner from sin. Again, a poor direction to go in. And to make the leap to gay marriage?! From a certain perspective, they’re playing into the hands of those who fear where this current discussion may head, and so will attempt to end it immediately.

    Throughout any discussion we must be attentive to how our words are going to be heard. Have we not criticized others for not doing that very thing? Do we say and write words which are out of touch with the very people who need to be in the dialogue? Yes, dialogue means respectfully engaging even those we disagree with. We certainly know what it’s like to be talked at, so should know better.

    It seems to me the pope is establishing common ground for us to stand together on and to build on, mindful of his Petrine duty to maintain unity. He hasn’t changed what the catechism says, but he has found something too often neglected in it on which to build ministry. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this [orientation] but that they must be integrated into society,” If we look back at negativity we will end up like Lot’s wife, frozen and unable to move. If we become political we have not heeded all of what Francis said. The way forward is to steer clear of political agendas, choose our words carefully and keep our eyes set on Jesus Christ.

  8. […] This week has been a heady one, with hopes and dreams of a more LGBT-inclusive church running high, thanks to Pope Francis’ remarks in his airplane press conference on the way back from Brazil.  We’ve tried to give you a variety of points of view on this news story, and you can read our previous samplings here and here. […]

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