*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
There has been much written about the undisputed leader of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis. In particular, he is reputed to be a progressive Pope simply because he has embraced, and parroted, the teachings of the Church’s ideological champion and namesake, Jesus Christ. However, for many religious observers and commentators, the Pope’s words, although welcomed and refreshing, are not always in line with official Church dogmata or its actions. One expected that the Pope, if sincere, would follow his lofty speech with actions but that has not been the case; maybe speech is a prelude to change.
This Pope has made verbal overtures to the LGBT community in the past and on a return flight to Rome from a visit to Armenia he answered a reporter’s question that once again implied a shift in the Church’s stance on homosexuality. Reporters asked the Pontiff directly if he agreed with the comments of German Cardinal Reinhard Marx who, in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre by a homophobic American man with easy access to an assault weapon, that the gay community deserved an apology from the Catholic Church. Pope Francis’ reply was as direct and pointed as the reporters’ question. He said:
“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.”
Cardinal Marx is a trusted adviser to the Pope and had recently told a conference in Dublin that the church must apologize for having consistently marginalized gay people in the course of its history. The Catholic News Service reported that at the mere mention of the Orlando shooting, the Holy Father did what every decent human being does when reminded of the hate-inspired massacre; the pope closed his eyes as if in pain. Then he expanded on Cardinal Marx’s comments. Pope Francis said:
“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.”
The Pope then reiterated something he first uttered three years ago in what was a truly stunning shifting away from his predecessor, Pope Benedict’s stance on the matter of Catholic adherents that are members of the LGBT community.
“The question is, if a person who has that condition, who has good will, and who looks for God, who are we to judge?” Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, was quick to clarify that when the Pope referred to “that condition,” he meant “a person in that situation;” not that being gay was some kind of medical condition, according to a report by Reuters.
Pope Francis also said that ultimately, “We Christians have much to apologize for” — and those apologies need not be confined to just one area. Ask forgiveness, and not just say we’re sorry. Forgive us, Lord.” The Pope should ask for forgiveness from the LGBT community, the recipients of no small amount of hate, violence, and vitriol from many in the Christian community…especially the American Christian community.
Contrast the Pope’s reaction to the Orlando massacre with the hate-filled response from many Christian leaders in this sad, barbaric nation. For example, at the Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento California, Pastor Roger Jimenez stood at the pulpit and preached to his Christian congregants that:
“They shouldn’t be mourning the death of 50 sodomites. People say, like: ‘Well, aren’t you sad that 50 sodomites died? Here’s the problem with that. It’s like the equivalent of asking me – what if you asked me: ‘Hey, are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?’ Um, no, I think that’s great. I think that helps society. You know, I think Orlando Florida is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is – I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!”
At another “Christian” church, this one in Tennessee, Pastor Jesse price put up a sign in front of the Beech Cliff Pentecostal Holiness Church in Johnson City directly after the Orlando massacre that read; “God’s wrath may be getting started to fall on the gays.” For dog’s sake, even the Orlando shooter’s father, a Muslim adherent, parroted god’s word in the Christian bible that the Old Testament deity would punish “sinners” in the proverbial afterlife; it is not the duty of the adherents of any Abrahamic faith.
Now, of course, the difference in “the Christianity” of Pope Francis, like his reaction to the Orlando massacre, is the polar opposite of the kind of faith practiced by many American Christians; particularly those on the radical Christian right. And, it is true that no matter the encouraging speech coming from the Pontiff about the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality, he has yet to make any concrete actions to welcome the LGBT community. But at least he is not celebrating the senseless deaths of 49 human beings at the hands of an avowed homophobe.
What Pope Francis can do to back up his Christ-like words, and admission that Christians as a faith and not just the Catholic Church, of remorse and contrition about the treatment of gays is take action to back up his speech. Thus far there has been little more than words and, although encouraging words have to translate into some kind of action. Apologies are nice, but part and parcel of “being sorry and asking for forgiveness is according to the Christian bible, being repentant; it means not continuing in the same course of action.
There is one thing the Holy Father can do and although it will have no effect on the Catholic Church, it will establish a precedent in America. Pope Francis should condemn, in the strongest language possible, the continued hate-mongering against the LGBT community by American Christians and take particular aim at those so-called “Christians” ensconced in the Republican Party. It would admittedly have little effect on the purveyors of evangelical hate, but it would serve to identify so-called Christians who are at least attempting to be followers of Christ and the growing number of Americanized Christians who embrace hate; something their champion Jesus Christ never, not even once, preached was a requirement to be one of his disciples.