ONE YEAR LATER: The Advocate Publishes Positive Reviews of Pope

ONE YEAR LATER is an afternoon series focusing on the first year of Pope Francis’ papacy. Bondings 2.0 will be running this series all week.  The anniversary of his election is today, March 13th.

Pope Francis received many honors and accolades at the end of 2013, including Time‘s “Person of the Year.” Of all these, few were as notable, and surprising, as The Advocate‘s selection of the Catholic Church’s highest official for their “Person of the Year.” It seems the world’s leading LGBT magazine was not far off, as two Catholic commentators who follow LGBT issues affirm the positive steps Pope Francis has taken on gay issues.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, wrote an essay for the anniversary of Pope Francis’ election published in The Advocate today. In it, he writes of the strange new reality that Pope Francis’ openness has created:

“When I go to gatherings of LGBT and progressive Catholics, everyone lately is quoting the pope — in gushing terms. Friends who have been staunch anti-papists (both Catholic and non-Catholic) now use papal quotations as their authoritative justification for every argument.  It’s bizarre. I’m still not used to it…

“No one could have predicted Pope Francis. His many headline-making statements about gay and lesbian people and relationships are radically reshaping the Catholic discourse on these topics.  Even Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a staunch opponent of LGBT equality, recently echoed Pope Francis’s famous “Who am I to judge?” line…

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo

“Some have downplayed Francis’s achievement by saying that he is all style and no substance.  While it is true that he has not made any doctrinal changes, a change in style is still very significant. The fact that Francis is the first pope to use the word ‘gay’ is a giant step forward.”

DeBernardo notes that change in the Church is an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary one. Pope Francis’ shift in practice anticipates doctrinal change in the future, as has happened many times before in church history, as he writes:

“Francis’ greatest contribution to LGBT causes may not be overturning repressive teaching, but laying the path that will allow that teaching to be overturned by a successor…

At the end of November, Pope Francis issued “The Joy of the Gospel,” in which he laid out his vision for a new church. What gives me hope from this document is humility. He called for the church to emphasize diversity and decentralization. He stressed that the opinions of laypeople and knowledge gained from science should contribute to church teaching. He called for the church to update its old traditions.

“In short, Pope Francis’s greatest contribution so far, and perhaps what will be his lasting legacy, is not what he has said, but in the fact that he wishes to listen.”

Michael O’Loughlin’s reflection on Pope Francis’ first year was also published by The Advocate. In it, O’Loughlin says the pope has opened the door slightly to LGBT people. He is mindful of the Church’s slow process of reform and the continued harm against LGBT justice inflicted by the American bishops, and writes:

“Many Catholics have been hurt by the harsh rhetoric and actions on LGBT issues from previous popes and American bishops.

“So if LGBT people are less than enthused about the pope’s gentle remarks, it’s understandable. There’s a lot of pain in this community, and it will take more than a few remarks to heal…

Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

“Progress in the religious sphere must be measured differently. Religions slowly and deeply form consciences and worldviews, and they animate the actions of billions.”

Still. O’Loughlin concludes hopefully that even with shortcomings, Pope Francis is paving the way for progress by humanizing LGBT people and allowing open discussions:

“Has the pope gone far enough in welcoming LGBT people of faith into the Catholic Church? Hardly. And it’s fine to focus on his, and his church’s, shortcomings.

“But Pope Francis has cracked the door ajar, ever so slightly, an invitation for LGBT people to talk about their experiences, good and bad, joyful and painful…

“The Catholic Church has the power to mold minds in a world where it’s still illegal in over 80 countries to be gay, where suicide rates among LGBT people dwarf those of their straight counterparts, and where families still abandon LGBT children in even the most liberal enclaves.

“The pope’s opening the door for lay Catholics to reconsider their views on LGBT issues might, ultimately, usher in progress on scale with legal, political, and social victories. One year in, the door is open.”

Through this week, “One Year Later”has been exploring just how Catholics in the pews have responded and what long-term impact Pope Francis might have as he embarks on a second year. You can view the full series by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

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5 Responses to ONE YEAR LATER: The Advocate Publishes Positive Reviews of Pope

  1. Patricia says:

    For the first time ever, I walked out of the confessional today, angry with the priest. He had given our church a Lenten mission and today was on forgiveness. I thought that I could be honest with him and tell him how I harbored angry feelings about our pastor who every single day at mass spews hate for homosexuals. Instead of compassion, this priest starts lecturing me on how my son IS a sinner according to scripture, he is against nature and the priest has every right to publicly speak against the gays. He compared it to me loving my son if he was a murderer. I would love him, but hate who he became. I said, “then we’re done,” and walked out. Obviously, some of the priests are not listening to their Pope and are judging. I left so angry and know this is why so many Catholics have stepped away from the church. Hopefully, Pope Francis will bring them back and turn the hearts of the haters.

  2. Friends says:

    @ Patricia: Wow! Once again, this is a rogue priest who ought to be “taken to the woodshed” by Pope Francis. The sorrow and the pity is that there are still so many of them around and about, who are doing so much long-term damage to the Church.Younger people in particular have far more self-respect than to allow themselves to be condescended and abused in this way. Church leadership needs to get a clue about such pastoral malpractice, and then take action to fix it immediately. Perhaps it would be worth reporting this hateful incident to the diocesan bishop’s office?

    • Patricia says:

      We have a new Bishop, but as far as I can tell not much has changed since our last Bishop, who at one time disallowed the funeral of a young gay man at our university chapel. The man had been a student and yet was denied being celebrated there. He later allowed a mass for him to be said. Big whoop! Our pastor is one of the most homophobic men I’ve ever met. There’s rumor now that he might be changed (please, God!) because priests working under him seem to only last a few months and leave (wonder why!). I’m dedicated to outlasting these so-called men of God who turn their faces on the real love of Jesus. At one point I had changed churches, but I love my church and the people and I’m determined to either outlast things or change peoples’ hearts. It breaks my heart when these things happen, but I have to just bounce back. I know Jesus would weep when he hears of these things happening. I couldn’t believe he compared my son to a murderer. Every mass, our priest ‘preaches’ about not only the gays, but the Democrats. I know the Bishop has had many complaints, so I’m just praying for change. Thank you for your comment.

      • Friends says:

        Just curious, Patricia: where is your university, and your diocese? I’m an active member of the splendid Cardinal Newman Catholic Center at a major New England state university, as well as being a graduate of a major Catholic college. My experience has been that college and university Catholic communities are far more welcoming than many ordinary parishes. My undergraduate Catholic college, in fact, now has officially recognized GLBT student and alumni groups! Perhaps there are alternative Catholic community options that you could investigate? Good luck, and blessings!

      • Patricia says:

        Thank you! I’m in Southern California. I’ve heard of the Newman Centers and they sound wonderful. As far as I know we don’t have any, but it’s something I should look into. Just found out that our pastor will be moved to another parish soon and that brings me great comfort. I’m hoping we get someone new who will be much more tolerant.

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