In another shockingly progressive move by the Catholic Church, Pope Francis says the church should seek forgiveness from homosexuals.
During his flight from Armenia to the Vatican, a reporter asked Pope Francis if he thought gays deserve an apology from the Church.
“I believe that the church not only should apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended, but has to apologize to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labor; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons.”
This question comes after German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said the following in the wake of the Orlando shooting.
“The church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times – when I say ‘the church,’ I mean we Christians, because the church is holy; we are the sinners. We Christians must say we are sorry.”
Surely people will have mixed feelings about these statements.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, best known as Pope Francis, has sometimes surprised both the Catholic world and non-religious people worldwide with his views. Even though he remains a conservative at heart in issues such as the pro-life/pro-choice debate, he has been certainly more open than other successors of Peter when it comes to same-sex relationships.
Even though the Catholic Church has turned a blind eye to the struggle of the LGBTQ community, or even publicly denounced it as contrary to their beliefs, Pope Francis has been very open in his condemnation of hate speech and discrimination. His words are often controversial and have stirred discussion among conservatives who see him as perhaps too progressive for the Church, particularly following the iron fist rule of Joseph Ratzinger, the German Pope who was the right arm of another very conservative Pope in John Paul II.
Pope Francis compared homophobic politicians to Adolf Hitler, perhaps the worldwide symbol of hate.
The Pope said about anti-gay comments made by people in a position of power who are influential not only when it comes to public opinion, but potentially also in the drawing up and execution of exclusionary and discriminatory policies: “These are actions that are typical of Nazism, that with its persecution of Jews, gypsies, people with homosexual orientation, represent an excellent model of the throwaway culture and culture of hatred.”
This is actually a pretty direct comment coming from a Catholic leader, particularly considering the policy of no-intervention (a.k.a turn a blind eye) that the Vatican held during World War II, and for which Rome has been deeply criticized.
He didn’t hold back: “When I hear a speech (by) someone responsible for order or for a government, I think of speeches by Hitler in 1934, 1936…”
So comparing anti-LGBTQ politicians is a BFD in a day and age when far-right policies are making a comeback and some elected officials have an anti-gay agenda is actually quite something. We can think, for example, of current Vice President and former Indiana governor Mike Pence, who has made a career of getting the ultraconservative Evangelical right vote. And yes, Pence might very well become the US President if impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump reach a damning conclusion.
In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro has said that a court ruling criminalizing homophobia is wrong, even if his country is one of the most dangerous for the LGBTQ community, particularly for intersex individuals.
It is important to note, however, that Francis is not being totally progressive: he is not approving diverse sexualities, but condemning discrimination. There is a big difference.
The Pope also said that any form of discrimination went against Christian values.
This might seem like a logical thing to say about a religion that predicates loving each other like one loves oneself. However, orthodox interpretations of the scriptures are contradictory to this spirit, as they make same-sex relationships a sin. So Pope Francis is facing a theological dilemma by choosing human dignity over dated and sometimes discriminatory Vatican policies.
He also expressed his condemnation of the recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks, particularly in Western Europe. He said: “The Jews are our brothers and sisters and should not be persecuted, understand?”
As CBS News reports: “A report by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry showed that anti-semitic attacks rose 13% from 2017 to 2018. The highest number of incidents were reported in major Western democracies such as the United States, France, Britain and Germany.” These are very troublesome figures that echo a generalized sense of political and social crisis in which diversity is sometimes being crushed by hate speech.
And remember the Church has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Sexual politics in the Vatican have always been controversial, and even more so when cases of sexual abuse in the clergy hace resurfaced and lay authorities have made unprecedented moves, such as convicting George Pell, the third most powerful man in the Vatican, to jail in Australia. Pope Francis’ stance against sexual discrimination is a move in the right direction in terms of realigning the Vatican’s moral and ethical compass when it comes to sexual politics.
He went further and denounced what is basically the ultraconservative agenda…yes, he mentioned climate change.
Francis can be a bit conservative on some issues, he is at times ruthless in his political commentary. As Business Insider reports: “In the speech, Francis also denounced police brutality, the world’s failure to punish environmental crimes, and the arbitrary use of preventative detention.” Wow.
He basically blasted the anti-immigration policies of Western countries and the lack of accountability that governments and corporations have when it comes to irreparable damage to the planet, such as the Amazonian fires that devastated an ancient ecosystem. Yes, he basically told politicians, “thoughts and prayers” are not enough if there is no action behind all the talk.
On June 12, 2016, an armed man entered Pulse Nightclub and opened fire. Forty-nine people died that night as a result and 53 were injured. The shooting was the most deadly shooting at the time. Now, two survivors are claiming they are no longer gay after finding Christ and are marching in the name of conversion five minutes away from the deadly attack.
Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz survived the Pulse Nightclub massacre and have since claimed they are no longer gay men.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Colon and Ruiz have created an organization to promote the debunked and dangerous theory that homosexuality is something that can be changed. It has been scientifically proven that sexual orientation and gender identity cannot be changed at will. There have recently been high-profile examples of former conversion therapy advocates coming out as gay and rejecting the mentality that it is something that can be “fixed.”
As part of their ministry, Colon and Ruiz are hosting a “Freedom March” on Sept. 14 in Orlando five minutes from the remains of the Pulse Nightclub.
Ruiz and Colon told NBC News that their mission is not to forcibly change anyone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We’re trying to equip churches, even if they’re not gay-affirming churches, with the resources they need and teach them not to judge the LGBTQ community,” Colon explained to NBC News. “We’re trying to share our stories through ministry and share the testimonies of people who’ve come out of the homosexual lifestyle.”
The march has been received with mixed reviews with many in the LGBTQ+ community seeing the march as an attack on the community.
There is also a sentiment that the march is an insult to the memories of those who died that night simply for being part of the LGBTQ+ community.
“While we honor the freedom for expressions of faith, and hold the beauty of religiosity in our community, we cannot condone the gross misuse of religious text and faith to exploit LGBTQ+ people or support conversion therapy,” Christopher Cuevas, the executive director of QLatinx, wrote in an email to NBC News. “The expressions of our queer and transgender identities are the embodiment of divinity and grace, because we are living our most radical truth by celebrating and centering our LGBTQ+ identity.”
Ruiz has suggested that people can choose their sexuality and their path.
However, what Ruiz fails to understand is that scientific studies are proving more and more that is it the genetic makeup and brain chemistry that dictate a person’s sexual orientation. Studies have proved that people have not better of a chance to change their sexual orientation than they do their hair or eye color.
LGBTQ+-friendly religious organizations have reached out to Orlando asking for help stopping the march.
“The Freedom March describes their movement as ‘former homosexuals and transgenders sharing our testimonies and celebrating our freedom.’ At Q Christian Fellowship, our members have far too much experience with the damage that can be done by organizations promoting ‘ex-gay’ ideologies and conversion therapies premised on the false and dangerous claim that people must be ‘delivered from LGBTQ+ lifestyles,'” reads the open letter. “You should be aware that The Freedom March possesses significant organizational overlap with anti-LGBTQ+ groups such as Equipped to Love, the Changed Movement, and Moral Revolution, which describes itself as ‘a company of radicals helping to define a healthy sexuality’ in a ‘generation overwhelmed by conflicting messages about love, lust, and relationships.'”
But, some LGBTQ+ community members are spreading the message of love being the most powerful weapon against this anti-LGBTQ+ movement.
Love is one of the most powerful tools in anyone’s arsenal. In the face of a march trying to tell young LGBTQ+ people that they can change, it is important that people raise their voices in love and support. Being LGBTQ+ is okay and natural.