Hope From Pope Francis For The GLBT Community?

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I humbly suggest that Pope Francis and I were on the same wave length along with many priests and others who preached on Jesus restoring the leper to community for Sunday’s homily.

Here is Francis Bernardo’s New Ways Ministries Blog coverage of the Pope’s address to the new cardinals.

I agree that it is hopeful and yet I am waiting for a more explicit message to over one tenth of the world population who are a part of the GLBT community either openly or secretly. If Pope Francis can be more explicit many who live their lives in secret can fling open the doors.

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP

Pastor of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in fort Myers, Florida

Pope Francis delivering homily to cardinals

New Ways Ministries Blog

Francis DeBernardo

While Pope Francis may not have spoken about LGBT themes in his Sunday homily to the Cardinals gathered in Rome for a consistory this past weekend, his message certainly can be easily applied to this community which has too often been ignored or ostracized by Church leaders.  His talk is filled with echoes of how LGBT people have too often been mistreated in church and society. (You can read the full text by clicking here.)

Speaking about Sunday’s Gospel where Jesus heals a leper (Mark 1:40-45), the pope exhorted the new cardinals to conduct a ministry of outreach to the marginalized.  He began by noting:

“Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action: he reinstates the marginalized!”

While Pope Francis did not mention LGBT people by name, the details of his description of marginalization will surely ring true to many of these people who have experienced suffering and oppression during their lifetimes:

“Imagine how much suffering and shame lepers must have felt: physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually! They are not only victims of disease, but they feel guilty about it, punished for their sins! Theirs is a living death; they are like someone whose father has spit in his face (cf. Num 12:14).

“In addition, lepers inspire fear, contempt and loathing, and so they are abandoned by their families, shunned by other persons, cast out by society. Indeed, society rejects them and forces them to live apart from the healthy. It excludes them. So much so that if a healthy person approached a leper, he would be punished severely, and often be treated as a leper himself.”

The allusion to LGBT people is particularly strong, since so much of the oppression and marginalization that they experience is due to church institutions, structures, and leaders.  Pope Francis criticizes such ritualistically pure actions:

“Jesus, the new Moses, wanted to heal the leper. He wanted to touch him and restore him to the community without being “hemmed in” by prejudice, conformity to the prevailing mindset or worry about becoming infected. Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences! For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!

“Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal! He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp (cf. Jn 10).”

Church leaders, he adds, must make it their priority to go beyond their comfort zones and approach people they might not otherwise be inclined to associate with:

“The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement. . . . The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity; to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart. The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those essentially on the ‘outskirts’ of life. . . .

“Dear new Cardinals, this is the ‘logic,’ the mind of Jesus, and this is the way of the Church. Not only to welcome and reinstate with evangelical courage all those who knock at our door, but to go out and seek, fearlessly and without prejudice, those who are distant, freely sharing what we ourselves freely received. ‘Whoever says: “I abide in [Christ],” ought to walk just as he walked’ (1 Jn 2:6). Total openness to serving others is our hallmark, it alone is our title of honour!”

While in other talks,  Pope Francis has revealed that he does not support marriage equality, there was one section from his homily today, which could easily be applied to an argument in support of marriage equality.  Too often, we hear from marriage equality opponents the false threat that extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples will harm heterosexual couples. Pope Francis’ logic in the following section shows that such thinking is inconsistent with Gospel values:

“In healing the leper, Jesus does not harm the healthy. Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother. He does not devalue the law but instead values those for whom God gave the law. Indeed, Jesus frees the healthy from the temptation of the ‘older brother’ (cf. Lk15:11-32), the burden of envy and the grumbling of the labourers who bore “the burden of the day and the heat” (cf. Mt20:1-16).”

Let me be clear that I do not think that Pope Francis is criticizing the gay-marriage-threatens-straight-marriage argument.  What I am saying is that the logic and Gospel values he extols in this homily contradict the type of thinking that such an argument carries.

And, as I mentioned, I don’t think that the pope was necessarily speaking of LGBT people in this homily. The descriptions he offers, however,  very much apply to the LGBT experience.  I believe that Pope Francis was discussing all sorts of marginalization experienced by a wide variety of human groups.

Pope Francis has not been as forthright about supporting lesbian and gay relationships as was once thought by many.   But his call to new cardinals to reach out to the marginalized can be thought of as making it possible for church leaders to initiate much greater outreach to LGBT people than they have been doing.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

National Catholic Reporter: Francis tells cardinals not to be ‘closed caste,’ seek contact with marginalized”

newwaysministryblog | February 16, 2015

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