In fact, I gave up on my family members receiving the approval of the world’s most prominent religious leader years ago. I remember the exact moment when I’d had enough. In June 2010, I was walking through New York City with an old friend when she informed me that the Vatican, with support of Pope Benedict XVI, had classified the ordination of female priests as a “crime against faith,” a label also used to condemn the pedophilic actions of priests.
My mother happens to be the most faithful and saintly person I know, so placing her ministry in the same category as the sick perverts in the organization allegedly assaulting children easily destroyed the last bit of weight I gave the Roman Catholic Church.
Following that day, I turned my attention away from the church’s views of my mother and focused my attention more directly on the gay rights movement within the United States. I stayed tuned as small victories mounted, leading up to the major breakthrough that was the Supreme Court’s decision to provide federal benefits to same sex marriages this year.
With 13 states now free to marry same sex couples, the movement seems to have hit a crucial turning point and gained some momentum. Gay marriage has never had more positive press, but the last place I expected to hear it from was the Pope’s lips.
The Pope gathered journalists and spoke candidly to reporters aboard his returning flight from Brazil in late July. He took questions, and subsequently shocked the world with his comments regarding the gay community. He stated, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Until recently, I would have said that the Pope was “the” man to judge, being the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, an organization outspoken against homosexual behavior. However, apparently Francis’s views on homosexuality are somewhat more tolerant than Benedict’s. Where Benedict believed that men with homosexual desires should not be ministers, Pope Francis stated that gay clergymen should be forgiven and their “sins” forgotten.
That a “sinful” man is still considered more holy than a woman is a hard pill to swallow, but I’ll accept tolerance when it’s given.
Francis’s remarks are an interesting development in the gay rights movement no matter how the issue is viewed. His statements don’t dissent totally from the Vatican’s stance on homosexuality, but show – if anything – that the topic is being actively discussed within the church. The dialogue has finally changed to include the term “gay,” which was previously avoided in papal statements. The adjustment is a small step toward more open and judgment-free discussions about homosexuality within the church.
Despite the optimism the Pope’s statements give the gay rights movement, his mentality toward the community signals no immediate change in Vatican policy. The Church still considers homosexual acts to be intrinsically unholy, and because of this, more gays and lesbians will be pushed away from religion by the establishment’s judgment. Ultimately, that is the true shame: judging others, making good people a “they” and separating God’s children from one another simply out of fear, cruelty and a lack of understanding. My mother’s words echo in my ears, telling me to instead, “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
My godfathers, faithfully together for more than 30 years, are still unable to legally marry or receive federal benefits. They will wait, attending church every Sunday, for as long as it takes.
Matt Kirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org