Unprecedented. Whether you are Roman Catholic or Protestant, Christian, Jewish or Muslim, no head of one of the largest churches in the world has spoken out for the LGBTQ community as has Pope Francis. Extraordinary. Because of his compassion to all human beings, no matter what their religious or non-religious leanings, I keep my eye on his proclamations.
Apparently, il Papa holds press conferences on the papal plane. On June 26, 2016, up in the air between Armenia and Rome, Reuters reporter Phillip Pullella (published in an article, entitled Pope says Church should ask forgiveness from gays for past treatment) began chronicling Pope Francis’ lists of those harmed by Christians, including asking, “forgiveness for the way it has treated women, for turning a blind eye to child labor and for ‘blessing so many weapons’ in the past.”
But, for me personally, a huge leap in human rights from the Pope was “that Christians and the Roman Catholic Church should seek forgiveness from gay people for the way they had treated them,” according to Pullella.
What prompted this moment of reflection and act of contrition? Interestingly, it was the remarks of a German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising. Last week the Catholic church held a conference at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. According to Patsy McGarry, writing for The Irish Times, Cardinal Marx proclaimed, “The history of homosexuals in our societies is very bad because we’ve done a lot to marginalise [them].” He went on to comment, “that until “very recently,” the church and society at large had been “very negative about gay people . . . It was the whole society. It was a scandal and terrible.” McGarry’s article, entitled Church must apologise to gay people, pope’s adviser declares, noted that Cardinal Marx was “addressing a conference organised by Trinity’s Loyola Institute on The Role of Church in a Pluralist Society: Good Riddance or Good Influence?”
Who is Cardinal Marx and how is he authorized to say these things for the gay community? According to Crux: Taking the Catholic Pulse, Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín notes “German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, a member of the pope’s “C-9” council of cardinal advisors and a major force in his recent Synods of Bishops on the family….”
Photographer Paul Haring caught this grieved expression from the Pope after Cindy Wooden, the Rome Bureau Chief for Catholic New Services asked about the church’s response to the deaths of 49 persons at the gay club Pulse in Orlando. It was Wooden’s question, referencing Cardinal Marx’s remarks, that prompted Pope Francis to request that Christians and the church offer forgiveness for its treatment of the LGBTQ community in the past.
I offer the entire transcript of the Pope’s press conference onboard the chartered papal plane: TRANSCRIPT: WHAT DID POPE FRANCIS SAY ABOUT THE CHURCH AND APOLOGIZING?
I have been unable to find any responses by other Christian groups about the pope’s comments. However, some Catholic groups have sounded out.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, turned the tables on Pope Francis by remarking to Chris Cuomo on CNN, that “I Want an Apology From Gays!’ Donohue told Cuomo that, “I’ve been assaulted by gays.” Donohue went on to state that he went on to blame a group of people at a protest parade “who watched me be assaulted by lesbians.” Donohue went on to state, “The idea of a blanket apology because you are a member of some demographic group–I mean, I don’t know. What church teaching is it that you have a problem with that maybe the church should apologize for?” The entire Cuomo/Donohue conversation can be found at: ‘I Want an Apology From Gays!’ Catholic League’s Donohue, Cuomo Spar Over Pope’s Comments‘
On the other hand, Barbie Latza Nadeau of The Daily Beast in her article, Pope Francis Says Church Should Apologize To Gays And Others It Has Hurt And Ask Their Forgiveness reports that New Ways Ministry Francis DeBernardo also agreed with the Pope:
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which is a 40-year-old Catholic ministry working towards justice and reconciliation for LGBT Catholics, essentially accepted the pope’s apology. “This step by Pope Francis shows that Church leaders can and should admit when they have been wrong, especially when their wrongs cause people tremendous and unnecessary harm. His message signals a major change in attitude for an institution which has a terrible history of ever admitting that it has done something wrong,” De Barnardo said in a statement. “For some LGBT people who have been so wounded and bruised by Catholic leaders’ negative messages, the pope’s statement may seem like too little, too late. While indeed we have waited a long time for an opening like this, I think it is important to rejoice at this step forward. We must work and pray to make sure that the next steps take place much quicker. Among those next steps are more dialogue between Church leaders and LGBT people.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, the Executive Director of DignityUSA, the organization of LGBTQ Catholics, remarked on the organization’s website, “This could be a very important step in healing the relationship between the Catholic Church and LGBTQ people,” she stated. “The frank acknowledgment by the Pope that Church teachings and practices have done immense harm to LGBTQ people over the centuries—leading to such evils as violence, oppression, self-hatred, the division of families, youth homelessness, and suicide—is essential.”
Yet Duddy-Burke, along with other liberal Catholic organizations, have spoken out that the pope’s message does not go far enough to healing the riffs against the LGBTQ community. Reporter Jim Yardley writes in his New York Times article, Gay Catholic Groups Want Pope Francis to Do More Than Apologize, Duddy-Burke remarked, “But a statement of remorse is only as good as the change in behavior that follows.”
Another response to the pope’s words also came from co-executive director of Call to Action, Ryan Hoffman, who “praised Francis’ remarks but also called on Catholic officials to ‘reform teachings and practices that refer to gay people as ‘objectively disordered’ and ‘intrinsically evil,’” writes Yardley.
Interestingly to me is that, for some reason, now the leader of one of the oldest Christian sect is speaking against the constant undeclared war on the LGBTQ community which has been part of the Western culture for centuries. Did the bloodbath in Orlando at the gay night club, Pulse, instigating a tipping point? Will members of the LGBTQ community eventually be treated as just members of the community at large?
I do think that when a respected leader of a very large community makes statements against centuries of abhorrent treatment of a certain group of human beings, many people will begin to wake up and reassess their own personal issues against such communities.
What about Bob Donohoe and his statement that gays should apologize to him for assaulting him? I can understand his response if he was indeed physically assaulted. But I could not find anywhere where Donohoe reported this so-called assault. Not a word. Then when the pope asks for the Christian world to completely reassess its attitudes against the LGBTQ community, and Donohoe has a personal melt-down over being “assaulted” by “lesbians.” This sounds to me like a person whose ego got bruised. Sounds pretty narcissistic. Sounds like someone who really values himself over many people he views as not equal to him. Sounds like his comments are from a place of rage and not a place of empathy or love.
Again, I have great respect for a pope who genuinely appears to be reaching out to many people in the margins of society. But as more and more people stop blindly following hard-line religious dogma, often those people decide to become more human and react to marginalized people with more humanity than those in so many religious communities.
Shortly after the assault on the Pulse night club in Orlando, Reuters published an article from its staff, entitled, U.S. religious leaders reexamine words after Orlando gay club massacre. The Reverend Dr. Joel C. Hunter, the senior pastor at the non-denominational Christian church, Northland, made a completely clueless statement, “I have been searching my heart: is there anything I did that was complicit in that loss?” More realistic, Robert Lynch, the bishop of the Catholic diocese in St. Petersburg, Florida, noted, “Sadly, it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people.”
It seems that Pope Francis is becoming even more and more human even though his dogma justifies persecution of members of the LGBTQ community. Good for him. But I’ve decided no longer follow the dogmas of religious sects. I have decided be human, to live my life under an archetypal Golden Rule. I would continue to hope that more religious persons would stop justifying their hate towards marginalized people–a hatred that was one of the biggest reasons why I have chosen to be an non-believer. I believe only in humanity and equality for all. That is reality. That is love.