Pope Francis is a complicated, if not confusing, pontiff to the LGBTQ community — especially so to the transgender community. On the surface Francis displays a pastoral countenance to his papacy that extends to all of our community.
When the pontiff was queried about the much-talked-about “gay lobby” in the Vatican: “When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [towards homosexuality] is not the problem… They’re our brothers.”
This public statement is the most LGBTQ affirmative remarks the world has ever heard from the Catholic Church. In 2013, The Advocate, a nationally renowned and respected magazine, named Pope Francis their “Person of the Year.”
“When deciding who was the single most influential person of 2013 on the lives of LGBT people, there are obvious choices. At least, they seem so at first… Pope Francis is leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics all over the world.”
Pope Francis’ stark change in rhetoric from his two predecessors — both who were at one time or another among The Advocate’s annual Phobie Awards — makes what he’s done in 2013 all the more daring, The Advocate wrote.
Just below Francis’ LGBTQ pastoral message, however, the damaging and homophobic ecclesiastical edicts or theological tracts hold firm. Thanks to Francis.
The most recent example is the pontiff’s newest tome, “Pope Francis: This Economy Kills.” Francis compares transgender people to nuclear weapons. His reason is that this unlikely pair destroy and desecrate God’s holy and ordained order of creation.
In an interview with the National Catholic Reporter Francis spewed the following transphobic remarks: “Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings,” he continues. “Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.
“With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator. The true custody of creation does not have anything to do with the ideologies that consider man like an accident, like a problem to eliminate. God has placed man and woman at the summit of creation and has entrusted them with the earth. The design of the Creator is written in nature.”
Francis’ clear denunciation of our present-day gender theories and understanding of the fluidity of human sexuality not only perpetuates spiritual harm and alienation to our trans community, but it also unwittingly invites physical harm to our trans community — done in the name of God with righteous wrath and indignation.
Unlike his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, a.k.a. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who used his authoritarian and “Rottweiler” persona with church doctrine to maintain an ecclesiastical lockdown on the churches progressives, Francis’s conciliatory demeanor is shockingly disarming and inviting. His views on gay priests, while not quite in lockstep with its Catholic LGBTQ parishioners and allies, has moved the farthest of any pontiff in history. Nonetheless, his views on the surface are only perceptually progressive.
While it might be argued that the Pope’s understanding about human sexual orientation is expanding, and his concern for the dignity and humanity of LGBTQ people is genuinely shown, the pontiff is still a doctrinal conservative who holds largely to the Catholic Church’s universal catechism about us.
Liberation Theologies combine Christian theology with political activism on issues dealing with human rights and social justice. Liberation Theologies emphasize the biblical themes that God’s actions on behalf of the enslaved, the poor, the outcasts like women, people of color, and LGBTQ people, just to name a few, are a central paradigm for a faith that embraces the world — as it is today — from an engaged and committed stance that does justice.
It’s not enough for Francis to say he embraces our community. He must also do it.
Rev. Irene Monroe is a Huffington Post blogger and freelance journalist.