Progressives have been up in arms in the past couple of days ever since finding out that Pope Francis had a private meeting with faux Christian martyr Kim Davis during his recent visit to the United States:
That Francis would provide moral succor to a woman who represents the religious right’s continued attack on the civil rights of LGBT Americans while refusing to meet with any LGBT Catholics was a rude awakening for progressives who thought that Francis might be steering the Catholic church on a more compassionate path. My answer to those who have been blindsided by this revelation, is why is this such a shock?
Pope Francis opposed Argentina’s same-sex marriage bill in 2010, believing that it would harm the nuclear family for reasons that he never fully articulated:
He would lend cautious support to civil unions as a compromise measure, but the other Argentine bishops vetoed this plan. Not that it matters, since same-sex marriage still became legal. This Pew Research study indicates that 52 percent of Argentinians support same-sex marriage, which is about the same level of acceptance as the United States:
In any case, it’s clear to me that Francis is towing the official Vatican line when it comes to LGBT rights. His famous “who am I to judge?” statement has been continually taken out of context. Francis was referring specifically to gay priests who are staying true to their vows of celibacy. While this is a change from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who thought that seminaries needed to be purged of the “lavender menace,” there’s been no indication that Francis disagrees with the official Catholic view that LGBT people are “intrinsically disordered.”
Francis’ and the Catholic church’s new obsession with “religious freedom” is clearly a tactical strategy and not something the hierarchy truly believes in. As many readers probably know, the Catholic church didn’t believe in religious freedom, until Vatican II. The church traditionally taught “religious toleration,” which meant that Protestants and Jews in a Catholic country had the freedom to meet for worship, but they couldn’t publicize their views or expect government support for their activities because that was to be reserved for the “True Church.” Then the document Dignitas Humane was published during Vatican II which suddenly proclaimed that religious freedom (i.e., people have the right to choose their own religion and promulgate their views) was a good thing, and traditionalists have been gnashing their teeth ever since. Then as now, I think the switch from religious toleration to religious freedom, stems from the church’s changing political situation, not just in the West, but in Latin America, where the Catholic monopoly on religious expression is rapidly eroding. So if you can’t get everyone to acknowledge that you’re the “True Church,” you can at least force your views on others because “religious freedom.”
I understand that progressives wanted to think that Francis would be a welcome change from John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but even though he does pay more lip service to Catholic Social Teachings (CST), he’s clearly not going to budge an inch when it comes to issues pertaining to sex and gender. This to me is the main problem with CST, namely that it has a lot to say about ending poverty and criticizing capitalism, but refuses to see how the ability for women to control their reproductive abilities keeps so many people, especially women in the Global South, poor. I think that the popes and other members of the hierarchy who have devised CST over the years imagine that the ideal society would be a quasi-feudal society, filled with the kind of romanticized “earth mothers” often associated with country living and the peasantry. But even Catholic women in the Global South aren’t interested in having a quiverfull if they don’t have to. Brazil, for example, a traditionally Catholic country, saw its birth rates plummet in recent decades, not from any government sponsored birth control program, but because Brazilian women wanted to emulate the glamorous lifestyles depicted on Brazilian soap operas:
http://www.npr.org/2012/01/15/145133220/brazils-falling-birth-rate-a-new-way-of-thinking (the Cliff’s Note version)
http://www.iadb.org/res/files/WP-633updated.pdf (a 45-page scholarly article)
And I bet you thought soap operas were all lurid trash.
But the truth is that the pope doesn’t care about what you think or what your opinion is of him. When I say the pope doesn’t care about you, this “you” includes traditionalist Catholics upset about the dearth of Latin Masses, conservotrads complaining about Francis’ critique of capitalism, and progressives angry about the Kim Davis debacle. And when I mean “the pope” and mean any and all of them who have or ever will occupy the throne of St. Peter’s, not just the current occupant. The pope doesn’t care about micromanaging your parish’s music ministry nor does he care about the plight of homeless LGBT youth. His primary concern is furthering the interests of the Catholic church, which as Ignatius of Antioch said is where the bishop is, not where two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name. Like Scarlett O’Hara, he’ll lie, cheat, and steal to get what he wants, and there’s not much we, the ontologically un-different, can do about it.