Thursday, April 17, 2014
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The gentle Pope Francis can make world better for LGBT people

Pope Francis greets the faithful at the end of his visit at the Parish Church of St. Cirillo Alessandrino, in Rome, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis greets the faithful at the end of his visit at the Parish Church of St. Cirillo Alessandrino, in Rome, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia) AP

Here's something you'd never expect to read from this writer: I love the pope. In just a few months, Pope Francis brought a much-needed breath of fresh air to the Catholic Church. Now that statement might come a little too soon, but let's be optimistic since in almost only one year he has rebuilt a church that was formerly led by a hateful, disliked pope who was a Nazi in his youth. Benedict’s authoritarian leadership nearly brought the church to ruin. 

This pope, coined “pope of the people”, has already reached out to the poor, the ill, women, Muslims, and LGBT people. The actual doctrine of the church has not changed, but the message the Pope Francis is sending is more powerful than the doctrines themselves. Francis seems to understand that messages can create instant change, while doctrine can take years. He performs simple gestures as a priest looking after his flock, rather then a bureaucrat, bringing change, excitement and hope.

I personally appreciate his message to LGBT people. Under the last pope, LGBT people were intrinsically immoral.  You wouldn’t think it could get more hateful than that. But yes, it did. They actually lobbied against non-discrimination legislation. Indeed the church said that it should be lawful for LGBT people to be fired or tossed out of their homes just for being LGBT.

Pope Francis takes a gentler approach. On a return flight from Brazil to Rome, a reporter inquired about his thoughts on gay people. His response: “Who am I to judge?”.

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  • Sure, there is no doubt that Pope Francis is against marriage equality. But his behind-the-scenes actions as a bishop in Argentina tell a more detailed story.

    Argentina was on the brink of legislating marriage equality in 2009. Under Pope Francis, the Catholic Church lobbied against it. This created a backlash that many people believe led to the law becoming legislation in 2010.

    As the battle was almost lost, Pope Francis, then Cardinal Bergoglio, called a meeting of his bishops to decide what course to take.  As reported in L'Osservatore Romano, he suggested making a deal with the government.  If they dropped marriage equality, the church in Argentina would not fight against civil unions. He was ultimately outvoted by his fellow bishops. According to the New York Times, he later met with two gay rights activists, Marcelo Márquez and Andrés Albertsen, and expressed support for the spiritual needs of "homosexual people" and willingness to support "measured actions" on their behalf. 

    As a gay activist I have often had to fight against a hateful church both to change laws that discriminate and to assure young catholic LGBT people that they are not immoral.  If we had a gentler church, the world would be a better place for us all. Pope Francis gives me that hope, and I wish him God's speed with his mission.

    Mark Segal for Philly.com
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