Pope Francis' Sham Apology to LGBTQ Community: Why Being Sorry Doesn't Cut It

Say what you will about Pope Francis, the guy sure does know how to work the media. Take, for instance, his remark on Monday that the church owes gay people an apology. It’s just the kind of vague, feel-good rhetoric at which the pope excels, leading the media to present him as a liberal, and progressives to embrace him as one of their own.


Except he’s not. He can apologize all he wants; it does nothing to to change church teaching on queer folk that describe us as “objectively disordered” and practitioners of a kind of love that is “intrinsically evil.” He’s made it clear he does not accept same-sex marriage as legitimate. He’s yet to censure individual bishops, such as Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus López Rodriguez, who referred to the U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic as a faggot, or others in his charge who wage jihad against gays. 

During a visit to Uganda, he had nothing to say about that nation’s proposed legislation that carries a penalty of life imprisonment for the crime of being non-heterosexual. We’re still waiting for him to condemn the firings of gay and lesbian teachers at Catholic schools for exercising their constitutional right to marriage. He's stood by as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wages a bogus “religious liberty” campaign aimed at depriving LGBT people and women of all sexual orientation of their rights. In short, the pope’s professed contrition is a sham.

The topic of the church’s anti-LGBT history came up at a press availability on the papal plane, during which a reporter asked for the pope’s response to remarks by Cardinal Reinhold Marx, one of the pope’s advisers, who told a conference in Ireland: “The history of homosexuals in our societies is very bad because we’ve done a lot to marginalize [them].”

Although Pope Francis said he agreed with Marx that the church owes LGBT people an apology, he did not issue that apology. According to the New York Times, he went on to list other groups harmed by the church who are owed an apology:

The pope said the church “must” not only apologize to a gay person it offended, “but we must apologize to the poor, to women who have been exploited, to children forced into labor.”

But an apology without remedy is almost worse than none. It’s a whitewash of a stain on the church’s soul that continues to grow beneath the cover of contrition.

Where is the pope’s initiative on stopping the anti-gay violence done in the name of the church? As late as last November, the U.S. bishops were penning a voter guide for Catholics that named marriage equality as “an intrinsic evil.” This kind of language is a perfect set-up for homophobes to rationalize violence against LGBT people. If people or their actions are deemed “intrinsically evil,” the misguided will find their own way to eliminating that purported evil and feel holy while doing it. The imprimatur of one of the world’s largest and most influential institutions of religion gives sanction to the entire society to demonize LGBT people, just as the church’s refusal to admit women into leadership sets the stage for all manner of discrimination and violence against them.

So, Pope Francis, keep your apology, I don’t need it. Until you issue a bull condemning attacks on queer folk by your own bishops, until you tell the U.S. bishops to stop their hate-mongering against us, until you condemn anti-gay laws destroying lives across the globe, it’s meaningless. 

Speaking to the Times, Rev. Anthony Spadaro, another of the pope’s advisers, sought to explain the seeming contradiction between the pope’s conciliatory language toward LGBT people and his opposition to same-sex marriage.

“He’s not liberal,” Spadaro said.

You got that right.

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