Mar 13, 2013

A Holy Pope

Wow! What can one say.

This morning the new Pope opted to join the Cardinals on their Conclave buses rather than ride in the official papal motorcade, which was ready and waiting. We are already watching the beginnings of a revolution, as the Spirit has brought us a genuinely holy man. Watch out, things are going to get really interesting from here on in. 

Leaving Sistina for Domus, papal motorcade was ready for Pope Francis, but new pontiff opted to join cardinals on their Conclave buses....

He may be staunchly conservative regarding sexuality morality, but this is a Pope capable of listening, without the hysterical edge to Benedict's obsessive rantings against gay marriage. (But see different reactions below.)

Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia has said it well for many of us:

To no small degree, having come close to facing the "guillotine" last time, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has had almost eight years to prepare for this. Yet even beyond the first notes he struck as Pope Francis I, a Page Three note in the moment seemed to sum up the ecclesial significance best....

To be sure, that was down to the vesture – the simple white cassock, shirking the ermine mozzetta that was supposed to be worn with it. 

And now, we'll get to see what those 33 Days would've looked like, if they had had the chance to play out.

I was in St. Peter's Square those many years ago, on 27th of August, 1978,  when Albino Luciani walked out onto the balcony as Pope John I and startled all of us with his gentle but radiant smile. Pope Francis is not quite as radiant, but the humility, warmth, friendliness and deep spirituality are only too evident. I was shocked by the resemblance and it's the very first thing I noted about him. We have - after a long desert - been given a genuinely holy pope. Will it make a difference to LGBT people? That is the question, but my sense is that, all appearances to the contrary, this is a significant step forward, and possibly the only step possible in this deeply entrenched institution. A man who seems to mirror the standard prejudices of his Cardinalate class, but watch out when a holy man is elected. 

I've read through a few of the bios of the man, some of the disturbing things he's said about gay people (led by the devil) and the questionable actions during Argentina's dirty war in the 70's. His defenders say it is his humility that prevents him from giving a defense of his actions during these years, so I'm waiting with suspended judgement on this one. Holy people can be almost as intransigent on certain issues as the rest of us, so it remains to be seen how far this Pope will journey regarding gay rights and the place of women in the church. But I am shocked by the change that we've just witnessed. There is a certain psychological threshold that a person has to cross before you sense you are in the presence of a holy woman or man and neither Karol Wojtyla, for all his charisma, nor Benedict for all his learning gave one the sense they had crossed over into genuine wisdom, in which the obsessions of the ego have been substantially purified. With Francis I,  we are in holiness territory and its anybody's guess as to what is going to happen next. Be prepared to be surprised, very surprised. 

Riding with the Cardinals in their conclave buses? This is a man who is going to listen. It just depends how many diverse and varied voices reach his ear. 

p.s. for those who want a quick survey of LGBT responses to the election here is GAY CITY NEWS which heads its article with a sensational Headline, but ends with some cautiously optimistic responses from gay activists;

Francis ‘Inflammatory’ in Opposition to LGBT rights. 

BY ANDY HUMM | Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, was elected Pope Francis I on March 13 despite his failure to stop the progressive government of President Cristina Kirchner from opening marriage to same-sex couples –– the first Latin American country to do so –– and from making contraceptives available to all.
He also presided over the Church in a country where two-thirds of the people are Roman Catholic but just 10 percent attend Mass regularly.
Bergoglio condemned opening adoptions and marriage to gay couples as a threat to children, writing, “At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother, and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”
President Kirchner condemned his pronouncements as reminiscent of “medieval times and the Inquisition.”
“Simple” man, shadowed by role in Argentine “Dirty War”
The greatest controversy surrounding him, however, is his role as leader of the Jesuits in Argentina during the “Dirty War” there beginning in the late 1970s, when a repressive junta murdered thousands and cracked down on dissent, including Catholic liberation theologian priests. Just as Pope Pius XII disgraced himself by not speaking out against Nazi barbarism during World War II, Bergoglio was silent during the junta and Church leaders supported it. It was not until 2010 that the bishops of Argentina apologized for the Church’s role in that period, but while doing so they attacked the leftist guerillas along with the right-wing military oppressors.
Like Pius, he is credited with quietly saving some lives behind the scenes, but he was extremely uncooperative with a 2010 investigation into the crimes of the junta.
Francis is the first pope from Latin America and the first Jesuit, but took his name as pope from St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscans, rather than Francis Xavier, a fellow Jesuit.
Initial press reports have focused on the new pope’s commitment to the poor and to living a simple personal life — riding the bus, cooking his own food, and living in an austere apartment rather than the opulent official cardinal’s residence in Buenos Aires.
His biographer, Sergio Rubin, told the Associated Press that the pope is not “a progressive” or “a liberation theologist,” but that he “does criticize the International Monetary Fund and neoliberalism” and does “spend a great deal of time in the slums.”
Father Bernárd Lynch, an out gay Catholic priest persecuted under Pope Benedict XVI for his advocacy for LGBT rights in the Church and the larger society, told Gay City News from his home in London, “He’s a very interesting choice. I don’t know a lot about him. The impression is that he is indeed a holy and humble man — my sources say a simple man — and all that speaks well for those like me who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. But he is vehemently anti-gay.”
Lynch, who served Dignity/ New York, the gay Catholic group, and ran a groundbreaking AIDS ministry in New York in the 1980s, said, “Homophobia is a litmus test of orthodoxy” for Catholic prelates these days. He also cited Bergoglio’s conflicts with Kirchner on LGBT issues, though he understands that they have “made up in a sense” since the fight over same-sex marriage.
Benedict XVI, who as the #2 to Pope John Paul II and as pope himself had responsibility in picking all the current cardinals who elected Francis, made sure every one of them was strongly against any softening of the Church’s stands against homosexuality, artificial contraception, and women’s ordination.
Lynch said, “It could be more difficult for us because he is a champion of the poor. And we say that’s the way we want it, but where do we fit in? Are we not poor in how we have been treated by the Church? Can you not make space for us at the table? I don’t see any light in terms of us. I’m tired of asking for bread and getting a stone.”
Brendan Fay, an Irish Catholic gay activist and Dignity/ New York member, said, “My first impression is hopeful,” given the pope’s humble style and concern for the poor, “but we need to continue to work for change at the grassroots level. We can’t have a naïve expectation that there will be any leadership from a pope on the ordination of women or the recognition of marriage equality.”
John Allen, a veteran Vatican correspondent, said on CNN that when it comes to issues such as gay marriage, “you are not going to see reform,” but cited the new pope’s pastoral concern by noting that he “went to an AIDS hospice and washed the feet of a person with AIDS.”
Dignity/ USA executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke said in a written statement, “We applaud the cardinals for their recognition of the rising energy of the Catholic Church in the global South” and are “encouraged by Pope Francis’ clear commitment to the poor.” But, she added, “We acknowledge that as archbishop and cardinal the man who is now Pope Francis has made some very harsh and inflammatory statements about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. We recognize that sometimes this new job on which he embarks can change the man called to it.”
Duddy-Burke invited the new pope to “learn about our lives, our faith, and our families before he makes any papal pronouncements about us.”


wild hair said...

I am with Duddy-Burke. Francis 1, show us you really care about gay and lesbian people. You kissed the feet of AIDs' people. Can you really talk to gay and lesbian folks? My first impressions are hopeful, but I withhold my judgement on your papacy.

Richard Jayden Cameron said...

Kissing the feet of AIDS patients may be merely symbolic, but can you imagine the two previous pontiffs doing the same? I can't. I believe he is open.