I think, now more than ever, I like Pope Francis.

In a stunning reversal of traditional Catholic policy, Pope Francis I took a more positive approach to homosexuality than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. While speaking with journalists on the plane ride back to Rome, the Pope was asked how he would react if he were to learn that there was a cleric in his ranks who was gay but not sexually active. His reply: “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord? You can’t marginalize these people.”

God bless the Pope!

I’ve always been a little wary of the Catholic Church as an entity, though I know and I am friendly with regular Catholics. There’s a deep-rooted history of animosity between the Church and Judaism, exacerbated over recent years when Holocaust-denying clergy were allowed to continue practicing in positions of power. That, plus their views on LGBT and  women’s rights, mixed with pedophilia scandals have really made me and other people, if not detractors, then angry with it.

But with the election of Pope Francis, who sets out to be a reformer of the Church like his namesake St. Francis, I have had some new thoughts. This pope seems much more down-to-Earth and of the people, and he’s already instituted a number of reforms in Church policy. This latest change really makes me happy. Not only does it signal a possible change in the Church’s policy towards the LGBT community–which has regarded homosexuality as a disorder, and in recent years barred gay clerics from practicing–but it also signals a change for the Pope, who as a cardinal wrote a few papers condemning people who were LGBT.

If this is an indication of which direction the Pope might go in terms of the Vatican’s relationship with the LGBT community, it could signal a major change around the world. In several nations, from Iran and Russia to Uganda and Zimbabwe, there are laws in place or in process that would seek to rob the LGBT community of their human rights, and in countries where laws support the LGBT community, such as England, France, and certain areas of the United States, there is still an uphill battle to give the LGBT community the same rights as their straight neighbors. If the Pope’s statement signals a reversal in policy, several countries may face a rise in support for the rights of LGBTers.

And another thing that I’ve noticed is that the Pope said “You can’t exclude these people.” While I do note that calling an entire community that spans the globe “these people” sounds a little exclusionary in itself, to me the greater message sends out more powerful vibes. For years, exclusion of those unlike yourself or the main part of a group has been a too-widely accepted policy. It was believed that if you excluded someone unlike yourself–because of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc.–they would either change their ways, learn their place, or go away. But nowadays most people don’t bow so easily to the majority, and everyone from women to gays to Hispanics to everyone in between is speaking up for their rights, and it is working for the most part.

Something like this in the future would be nice.

If the Church is going to end its exclusionary policies, then that could lead to better relations between them and gays, particularly those who want a relationship with God and the Church. And it also shows that those who want to exclude gays from society or outright ban them may have lost a powerful ally in the Church. Which if you ask me, can only be a good thing.

I look forward to seeing where the Pope goes with this. Hopefully it’ll lead to more pro-gay reforms in the Church policy, making Catholicism and possibly Christianity in general more accepting to the LGBT community, and to people in general.

In the meantime, I’d like to say a prayer from Judaism that is said when something that hasn’t happened before happens for the first time: Baruch atah Hashem, Elocheinu Melech Ha’olam, Shehechianu v’kiamanu v’higi’anu lazman hazeh. Blessed are You, Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

An occasion I hope will lead to something good.

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Comments
  1. Good article! I too learned about this just recently and was surprised. Its always a good sign when a major institution breaks ranks with the intolerants amongst us. Reminds me when John Paul II said Darwin “wasn’t wrong”, or Benedict XVI said Creationism wasn’t science. Now if they’d just stop suppressing the reports on sexual abuse and issue an apology!

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