Judging from this article, originally written for Foreign Policy by Michael O’Loughlin, the Gay Thought Police are disappointed that Pope Francis hasn’t cracked down on bishops in regard to the gay agenda.
But bishops, not a centralized Roman bureaucracy, are the men supporting campaigns against same-sex marriage in the United States, and they’re the ones supporting laws that imprison gays in Africa. Liberal Catholics, in other words, are seeing both the good and the bad of what they wished for.
Now, many human rights advocates say silence from the pope, regardless of internal church issues, isn’t acceptable, that human dignity should trump bureaucratic reform. In October, Human Rights Watch published a letter to Pope Francis asking the church to use its influence “to protect people in sexual and gender minorities from further abuse.” HRW wanted the pope to “[p]ublicly condemn violence against people in sexual and gender minorities” and support the “decriminalization of consensual, sexual relationships and support the repeal of other unjust criminal penalties for people in sexual and gender minorities.”
As for whether his voice would matter, it’s certainly possible for the pope — especially this pope — to use his global platform to drive a conversation, perhaps even sway opinion. He led a massive protest against Western military intervention in Syria last September, for instance, rallying Catholics for a worldwide day of prayer. He has showed the world that he knows how to mobilize believers.
What’s more, even during the hostile climate created under Pope Benedict, there were some positive rumblings at the Vatican that show Pope Francis likely wouldn’t have much to lose in speaking out against egregious violations of LGBT rights. Responding to protests against its unwillingness to back a U.N. resolution on sexual orientation, Rome said in 2008 that it would support eliminating criminal penalties for homosexuality (even while it would not support same-sex unions and some other policies). More recently, Pope Francis’s personal representative to Uganda, Archbishop Michael Blume, expressed concern about Uganda’s anti-gay bill and wrote that he hoped the Holy Spirit would give Mr. Museveni “wisdom” as the president considered signing it into law.
Given his own public comments, Archbishop Blume’s words and other signals, it’s probable that Francis is against repressive, anti-gay laws. And already, in his first year as pope, he has taken an important step toward a new dynamic around LGBT issues in the church.
Yet if he truly wants to move forward, he will have to build on his initial outreach and ask, publicly, that Catholic bishops and other leaders keep up. If the pope truly wants the Catholic Church to chart a course for social justice around the world, his leadership on this issue must demonstrate that his powerful institution is a genuine voice for the oppressed.
PopeWatch believes that the Gay Thought Police will continue to be disappointed in Pope Francis. However Bishops and other Catholics speaking out on behalf of traditional morality will likely also be disappointed. Pope Francis has clearly indicated that although he is a loyal son of the Church he has no stomach for this fight, preferring to focus on what he perceives to be greater evils like youth unemployment and lonely geezers.