Weglinski: The Pope’s Support for Same-Sex Unions Offers Hope for Queer Catholics

Salt+Lake+City%27s+Cathedral+of+the+Madeleine%2C+photographed+on+Aug.+28%2C+2020.+%28The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle+%7C+Gwen+Christopherson%29

Gwen Christopherson

Salt Lake City’s Cathedral of the Madeleine, photographed on Aug. 28, 2020. (The Daily Utah Chronicle | Gwen Christopherson)

By Sonia Weglinski, Opinion Writer

 

In a recent documentary called Francesco, Pope Francis announced his endorsement of same-sex unions: “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God. You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable.” This wasn’t the first time the Pope strayed from the Roman Catholic church’s strict doctrine that views “‘homosexual acts’ as ‘intrinsically immoral.’” In 2013, the pontiff stunningly answered, “Who am I to judge?” when asked about a gay priest aboard his flight from Brazil. Similarly, he told a homosexual abuse victim that “God made you this way and he loves you.”

Pope Francis’ latest statement is notably different from his past comments. He is the first pope to openly be in favor of same-sex unions, and this was the first time he clearly vocalized his stance on the LGBTQ+ community to the world. Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest who advocates for gay rights within the church, commended the Pope’s progressive remarks, “I think it’s a big step forward. In the past, even civil unions were frowned upon in many quarters of the church. He is putting his weight behind legal recognition of same-sex civil unions.”

Although the Pope’s personal beliefs won’t alter the church’s traditional teachings, he’s still “leading a change in the way gay and lesbian families are treated within the church,” said Prof. Karen E. Park of St. Norbert College, a Catholic institute. Pope Francis’ support of civil union laws for gay couples is a huge stride for the LGBTQ+ community. His public endorsement will encourage acceptance and open-mindedness within the Catholic church, ultimately promoting a shift away from the religion’s homophobic beliefs.

As head of the Roman Catholic church, the pope has undeniable power. His influence stretches to over 1.2 billion members around the world, encouraging widespread progressive change within our global communities. The conservative Polish president, Andrzej Duda, might reconsider the homophobic comments he’s made to appeal to the predominantly Catholic country. Likewise, the Pope’s words may carry some weight the next time an otherwise faithful archbishop is forced to resign due to his sexuality.

It’s a harsh reality to be LGBTQ+ and Catholic. There have been several recorded incidences of gay people in ministry positions being laid off after coming out. Father Greg Grieten, an openly gay priest, reflects on his experience, “It really never was my shame. It was the church’s shame. They’re the ones that should have the shame for what they have done to myself and many, many other LGBT people.” Surprisingly, though, researchers estimate that about 30 to 40% of the American Catholic clergy are gay men — and some suspect the figure is more than twice that. Unfortunately, these men often resort to staying in the closet in fear of being shunned and exiled from the church.

Being raised in a devout Roman Catholic family, I’ve seen faith weaponized to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community. I know members who have come to me in tears of shame; I have friends who’d rather live a lie than come out to their parents. A Rolling Stones article describes the experience of Jackie, a lesbian rejected by her Catholic family, “She had no home, no money and no family who would help her.” Jackie’s heart-wrenching reality is shared by hundreds of thousands of queer homeless youth in the US. Moreover, one study shows that gay people affiliated with religions that stigmatize homosexuality have a higher likelihood of suicidal ideation.

When the Pope himself declares, “You can’t kick someone out of a family,” he’s addressing the extreme homophobia and hypocrisy to which so many members still cling today and which has such a damaging effect on the queer Catholic population. We can see this taking form in conversion “therapy,” a horrendous practice to which over 700,000 queer people have been subjected. Ultimately, his stance offers hope to LGBTQ+ Catholics who have grown up believing something was morally wrong with them.

While the Roman Catholic church still has a long way to go to become a safe, equitable faith for queer people, Pope Francis’ endorsement of same-sex unions will open the door for LGBTQ+ acceptance within the faith.

 

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