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Pope Francis' old friends begin to speak out

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“What we can say, I think, is that the media read far too much into the pope’s ‘who am I to judge?’ comment about gay Christians in his impromptu interview on the way back from Rio,’ Thompson said. 'If Time magazine gave Francis its Person of the Year on the basis of his relaxed attitude to homosexuality, it should have done its homework more thoroughly.'”

If you read this column, you might think that, considering my feelings about the new Pope, which I describe diplomatically as "underwhelmed," it may seem that I wrote this. However, I did not write it in a previous column; it comes from an article that was a pleasant surprise to me. I found it online, entitled Pope Francis encouraged bishop to speak out against same-sex adoption and it was written by Travis Gettys; if you search the title you will find it.

Gettys is as skeptical about the new era that is being ushered in by Pope Francis as I am. In his article, he says:

"According to a spokesman, the pope was shocked by legislation in Malta that would permit adoptions by same-sex couples. But that shouldn’t be surprising, say LGBT activists in the pope’s native Argentina.

“'This case, demonstrates yet another time--as we have repeatedly said--that there is no will from Pope Francis’ part to change the doctrinal position of the Catholic Church with respect to the family and the lack of recognition of gay or lesbian parents,' said Esteban Paulón, president of Argentina’s LGBT Federation. Paulón said the church was once again interfering with civil rights that should be a secular matter, noting that Pope Francis had opposed marriage equality in Argentina as cardinal of Buenos Aires."

The thing to remember here is not that Pope Francis is a bad man--on the contrary, he has excellent personal qualities. However, as an archbishop and now as Pope, he is--and must be--a company man. He is not going to tear off his pristine white garments and turn into a liberation theologian who sets the Church free; not going to happen. If Francis were not willing to play the game with the men who elected him, he would never have been elected; simple as that.

However, that is not the worst appraisal of Francis that appears in the article. Author Gettys writes:

"Damien Thompson, a Daily Telegraph columnist, said then-Cardinal Mario Bergoglio had denounced same-sex marriage as diabolically inspired but endorsed civil partnerships as a lesser of two evils.

"Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta condemned the legislation to permit adoption by same-sex couples, saying during his Christmas homily that God’s own son was raised by a man and woman, and said he’d discussed the measure with Pope Francis during a Dec. 12 meeting. 'We discussed many aspects … and when I raised the issue that’s worrying me as a bishop he encouraged me to speak out,' Scicluna said.

"Paulón pointed out that Pope Francis, who was named person of the year by both Time magazine and The Advocate, had remained silent on the increasing persecution of LGBT people in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe."

This is a very serious point that we must always affirm: when anyone--anyone at all--takes it upon himself to denounce those who disagree with him as diabolical, we are back in the Middle Ages. I write all the time that there is no such thing as Old-Testament Christianity, and if you want to look into Jewish theology you will find that they no longer live according to the Book of Leviticus. In his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi David Kushner no longer attributes misfortune to a deserved punishment from God. We cannot worship a god who inflicts terrible genetic diseases on unborn children. It is not possible. You cannot worship God if you are terrified that he will visit some similar affliction on you, for reasons that you will never know.

In the lexicon of the Sixties, anytime you bring up diabolical inspiration you are copping out. You have no arguments, so you resort to inflammatory language. It is a small step from attributing marriage equality to the devil, to attributing homosexuality to the devil, to dehumanizing and demonizing human beings who are simply who they are.

It is sometimes said that being gay is a choice, so I ask: when did you sit down and make the decision to be straight? I know that no such moment occurred in my life. I have always been the way I am, more or less attracted to the various men that I meet in the course of everyday life. I have had close female friends but I was never attracted romantically to them. This is not deciding to be heterosexual; it is simply to BE heterosexual.

Likewise, no gay person ever sits down and weighs the two alternatives, deciding to be gay. That does not happen either. A young person experiences their first crush, and at that point it may occur to the gay youth that there is something going on that was unanticipated. But they did not plan it; it is something that takes place and then you deal with it.

This is supported by psychological/biological findings that there is actually no known cause-and-effect relationship in sexuality. There are documented cases of identical twins who share identical DNA, and one twin is straight and the other is gay. The only explanation for this is theoretical: that some slight variation in gene markers may influence sexual identity. But that is only a theory.

Pope Francis seems blissfully unaware that there is an intelligent way to approach the question of why sexual identity occurs; and that is not even to approach the question of trans-sexuality. Francis dismisses all these human beings, many of them Catholic, by declaring that their lives are being driven by "the devil." Well, any Dungeons & Dragons player can tell you that there is no one entity called "the devil" and mythology gives us many evil spiritual beings that we can sort and classify by their stories and where they came from. Speaking of "the devil" as one single entity is to ignore even the legendary existence of Satan and Lucifer. Were they the same person? Were they two entities? What about Baal, Asmodeus, Moloch and Beelzebub?

If Francis wants to play with the big kids he needs to take inventory of the intellectual content of Catholicism. If and when he does, he will find that there are huge holes in Catholic theology that you cannot close simply by fiat. Gay Catholics, remember this: The Episcopal Church Welcomes You! Likewise the United Church of Christ, the Unitarians, the Lutherans, the Methodists, the Unity Church and many others.

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