Ed. note: This post is by Feministing’s community intern, Courtney Baxter.
Everybody and their mother’s brother‘s uncle is hollering over Pope Francis’ comment this morning re: gay Catholics. “Who am I to judge?” he stated, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will.”
This is obviously a #BFD in the Catholicism vs. Human Rights culture war. Having the leader of a church with 1 billion followers make such statement, and specifically within an institution that holds such a hateful historical legacy toward queer folks, feels like progress. And I think, in many ways, we can say that it is. Just a few years ago, Pope Benedict XVI issued directives to ban Priests who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’
So, while I want to immediately email this news to every freckled Irish Catholic member in my family (and probably still will), I think we all need to take it with a few shakers of salt.
Despite being a rampant optimist, it’s unlikely the Pope’s statements will create a dramatic change of tides, like I believe Obama’s change of stance on gay marriage did last year. It was, after all, just a few months ago that Pope Francis claimed that gay marriage was an “anthropological step backward.” While Argentina was voting on its own gay marriage bill, he stepped in to offer his thoughts: “Today the country, in this particular situation, needs the special assistance of the Holy Spirit to bring the light of truth on to the darkness of error, it need this advocate to defend us from being enchanted by many fallacies that are tried at all costs to justify this bill and to confuse and deceive the people of good will.”
All of this is also saddled with the fact that in the same unexpected press conference that happened this morning on the Papal airplane, his sweeping statements about gay priests were placed right next to this statement on the possibility of ordaining women in the church:
“The church says no. That door is closed.”
So while the gay part of me that comes from the most Irish of the most Catholic roots wants to feel relieved, the woman and skeptic in me thinks we should hold on the applause. Religious leaders, like political leaders, have a lot of power to make change. However it feels pretty damn clear that there’s a lot of ground to cover, and it’s going to take a lot more than Pope Francis’ latest statements for me to trust that Catholicism, as an institution, has any hope to get to a place where everyone(including, hello, WOMEN) is equally accepted in the “eyes” of the church.