Pope Francis shocked the world last week when he said that he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation. Francis remarked that if someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, he shouldn’t be the one to judge. He also commented that we shouldn’t marginalize people for their homosexuality but rather, that we must be accepting of their integration into society. When questioned on a clergyman accused of a gay tryst, Francis said it concerned matters of sin and not crimes like sexually abusing children. The comments were surprising coming from an institution that has typically taken a very negative stance towards the LGBTQ community. His words quickly became major news, with people declaring that the world was changing and applauding Francis for his progressive tone. However, I was initially skeptical. Francis clearly maintains the view of homosexuality as sinful (although he does distinguish between being gay and being a child abuser which is important). Should we be patting someone on the back for not totally hating gays? Is Pope Francis really that progressive?
After some internal debate I have come to the conclusion that this is progress. The Catholic Church is generally not a big fan of change. After all, we are talking about a church that still performed services in Latin until the 1960 and spent 2 centuries condemning heliocentrism. They take baby steps and maybe (hopefully) Pope Francis’ comments are a step towards a more inclusive Roman Catholic Church.
Francis’ comments “who am I to judge” and “we shouldn’t marginalize people” are progressive because right now people do judge. The LGBTQ community is marginalized. For the leader of the world’s largest Christian church to say that he won’t judge and won’t marginalize is a major statement. It is easy (and understandable) for people to dismiss major organized religion entirely for being outdated, patriarchal, and anti-gay. However there are 1.2 billion Catholics and the Catholic Church is only one denomination of Christianity. That’s a lot of people to dismiss.
I don’t know how to convince people that homosexuality is not a sin if that’s what they firmly believe. There are Christians who are questioning biblical views on homosexuality and doing a great job at it.
In the meantime, even if someone thinks that homosexuality is sinful, they still should not impose that view on others. They should also not bully and marginalize people or spread hate. And if someone thinks gay marriage is wrong due to religious reasons they still don’t have the right to legally impose that on people. Pope Francis’ “who am I to judge” attitude suggests that people’s sexual orientation is not any of his business and that it is instead between them and God. It is a small step but it is definitely in the right direction. Pope Francis might not be starting a Vatican City Pride Parade anytime soon but if his comments encourage people to treat their fellow human beings with respect and stay out of their sexuality then that’s something I’m willing to support.