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Opinion Piece

I wont be praising anything the Pope has to say

Originally posted on Mamamia, 31 July, 2013

When Pope Francis was installed earlier this year many were hoping for a shift in the church’s tone towards homosexuality. It seems like we may have got our wish. In a wide-ranging interview over the weekend, Francis, it was reported, reached out to homosexuals. He said:

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

The Pope has quickly received praise for his comments.

Reverand James Martin commented that ”Pope Francis’s brief comment on gays reveals great mercy.” Here at home, Australian Marriage Equality said:

“While the Pope still opposes marriage equality and thinks homosexual sex is sinful, he has opened up a space for discussion about these issues that did not exist under his predecessors.”

“This is glasnost for gay Catholics.”

I can see why people are happy. His statement is more progressive than anything that ever seemed to come out of Pope Benedict XVI’s mouth. It definitely is a shift from the past years. But unfortunately I’m going to have to hold back from my cheering.

I think the reason Francis’ statement seems so great is because of the difference between him and his predecessor. Benedict, a rampant homophobe, did not hold back during his leadership. At one point he said that homosexuality was as much of a threat to the survival of the human race as climate change. Being better than that is certainly not a high bar to jump over.

And when you look at it, it’s not really a bar that Francis is working hard to jump over. In fact his language over the weekend doesn’t actually represent any real shift in direction. As John Allen states:

It’s always been on the books in the Catholic Church that homosexual persons are to be treated with love. The Catechism, the official collection of Catholic doctrine, states that gays should always receive “’respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

In other words, the Pope has simple reiterated Catholic doctrine – the very same doctrine that Pope Benedict lived by.

And it is in seeing this context that we realise that this is in no way a progressive shift at all. For example, whilst he has been kind enough to say that he will not judge gay people, Francis has still emphasised that homosexual acts are a sin. He may not want to judge us, but but he will still considers our acts as sinful. We may deserve forgiveness, but we are still sinners. And if we do not seek redemption, we will still go to hell for those sins.

And this reality plays out in the fact that Francis does not look like he will be changing any Church positions any time soon. For example, in the interview Francis said that the “door is closed” on allowing women to be ordained. And he has signaled any more to repeal a policy signed by Pope Benedict that banned men with predominantly same-sex attraction to be admitted to seminaries, and therefore banned them from being ordained as priests.

But it is his various positions on a range of social policy that is the most troubling. Francis still strictly opposes abortion and euthanasia. Before becoming the Pope, he opposed the Argentinian Governments move to promote free contraception – something that causes significant worry given the role the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception has played in the HIV/AIDs crisis. He has called same-sex marriage a ‘real and dire anthropological throwback’ and opposes same-sex adoption, as he considers it discrimination against children.

And in the interview he made it very clear that this isn’t going to change – the Catholic Church’s policies will stay the same. He was strongest on the ordination of women saying the “door is closed” on the issue. In other words, this is not ‘glasnost for gay Catholics’. The discussion isn’t open. Things will stay the same.

A more conciliatory tone yes, but any real changes, no. Francis may just be a bit nicer about this homophobia.

So in the end what we have is a statement that is just a reiteration of official doctrine by a Pope that still believes homosexuality is a sin. Even though the tone may be more conciliatory this wont come with any changes in the Church’s homophobic beliefs and policies.

During the interview, Pope Francis also commented:

“The catechism of the Catholic Church says clearly that we must not marginalise these people who should be integrated in the society.”

This is the essence of what his position is. Queers should not be marginalised. They should not be judged. They should be ‘integrated’.

You can forgive me for not cheering. I think we deserve a lot better than ‘not being marginalised’ and ‘not being judged’. I think we deserve a lot better than the ongoing homophobic positions promoted by the Catholic Church. And until we get it, I wont be praising anything the Pope has to say.

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About Simon Copland

Simon Copland is a freelance writer and climate campaigner. In his spare time he plays rugby union and is a David Bowie fanatic. He is a regular columnist for the Sydney Star Observer, blogs at The Moonbat and tweets at @SimonCopland.

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