Papal Fallacy

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As American gay magazine, The Advocate, names Pope Francis ‘Person of the Year’, Rob Buchanan wonders if we’re having selective amnesia?


Top American queer magazine The Advocate has named Pope Francis ‘Person of the Year’, following in the footsteps of Time magazine and Vanity Fair.

I think there is a disturbing element of short-sightedness bordering on hypocrisy here. It’s very disappointing that The Advocate, usually a publishing paragon of equality, sees fit to look the other way on the Pope’s stances on women’s rights and contraception, not to mention child abuse, just because a few crumbs from the master’s table have been tossed at the gays of late.

Are our memories really that short? Only three years ago, whilst still a cardinal, Francis directly opposed marriage equality in his native Argentina, saying it would “confuse and deceive the children of God”.

Since his election, there have been a few encouraging statements from the current pontiff, but is there really any substance to them? When you think about it, Pope Francis’ spiel is very broad and shallow. And although ideally he has the last word on the official Vatican line on dogma, in reality his opinions are neither universally representative nor popular in the curia.

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Pope Francis I named ‘Person of the Year’ by  The Advocate

The oft touted ‘pro gay’ comment from Pope Francis is a prime example of an evasive yet easily palatable soundbite: “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person’.”

It’s ambiguous enough to satisfy both the homophobes and the eager, bleeding-heart liberals. But it truth the intention of this statement is less about seeking to rectify injustices than it is about preventing the alienation of educated Westerners, whose impatience with a child abuse-concealing, misogynistic, homophobic church has made them abandon Catholicism in their droves.

We really need to look at the bigger picture here. Pope Francis should hardly be named ‘person of the year’ by a gay magazine for showing the type of morality toward his fellow man that any human being, let alone a spiritual leader, should show. Has Pope Francis retracted the Catholic Church’s rabid resistance to same-sex marriage, which continues to underpin the inequality in so many countries?

The true danger is complacency. These relatively minor statements by Pope Francis only seem significant because of their rarity and their startling contrast to the inhumane and outright disgusting treatment his predecessors have shown.

Don’t forget that Pope John Paul II called gay marriage “a new ideology of evil”, and it’s hardly worth mentioning Pope Benedict XVI’s numerous poisonous rants, equating queers to everything from a debasement of God’s love to actually calling us one of the greatest threats to the history of humanity. What a bitch!

As the spiritual leader of approximately 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, Francis is jumping on a bandwagon, not of progressive liberalism but of populism. He is a highly intelligent and worldly man who understands what way the wind is blowing. There has never been a more stage-managed attempt to appear humble to a global audience that’s ever more suspicious of decadence and weary of the deeply untrustworthy leadership the Vatican has shown. Whether you believe his intentions are genuine or not, the current Pope is consciously attempting to reconcile the decadent and dilapidated Catholic Church he has inherited with the people. And The Advocate seems to be blindly flag-waving for him.

Make no mistake, homophobia is still deeply entrenched in the Vatican. Earlier this year, when speaking to the people of France about their same-sex marriage laws, Pope Francis warned them against following “fashionable ideas”.

Equality, dignity and justice are not “fashionable ideas”, they are human rights.

We should encourage and nurture any positive changes in the attitude of the Catholic Church, but in our eagerness to embrace our own equality, which is our birthright, we should not demean ourselves by choosing to have selective amnesia. Actions as always speak louder than words and the Vatican has a long way to go to convince me that it understands and values equality for lesbian and gay people as a basic human right.

© 2013 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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