Pope Francis: Turning the Catholic world on its head

Pope Francis: Turning the Catholic world on its head

"If the church does not consider homosexuality as sinful, then why deny gay people the right to marry and live like a family?"

He calls himself after his role model, St Francis of Assissi and strictly follows his edict “where there is despair, let me bring hope…”  He is also a Jesuit who emulates the warrior saint, Ignatius of Loyola in standing up like a true soldier to fight injustice in this world.

Among the many social reforms he has introduced during his papacy, one stands out for its courage and compassion. Francis has been a daring advocate of homosexual rights. He has supported the cause of gay persons whom he calls “the children of God.” He has courted opposition from his peers. He has earned the disapproval of conservative members of the church.

Now, by articulating the latest reform which extends support to same-sex civil marriages among his “flock,” Pope Francis has finally turned the Roman Catholic church on its head. He has shocked his followers worldwide and courted the displeasure of his clergy.

Although they were all fully aware of his empathy towards people with a different sexual orientation, this is the first time that he has openly declared his startling views regarding their marriage. If the church frowns on same-sex marriages, and its conservative members view this latest papal declaration as a deviation from accepted church values, he probably does not care.

Like his many other unconventional departures from orthodox practices, this modern-day head of the Vatican seems all set to improving an institution that has become decrepit and unsuitable to changing world order. If the church does not consider homosexuality as sinful, then why deny gay people the right to marry and live like a family, is the pope’s argument which can hardly be questioned.

One wonders if his 1.3 billion followers will accept his views on this sensitive subject and its repercussion on church practices. Catholics who follow the precepts laid down by their church and simultaneously owe a strong allegiance to its highest authority are now trapped in a Catch-22 situation. Believing for generations that the Pope is their undisputed spiritual guide and mentor whose word is law; and, also believing that they must not violate the teachings of the Church which is their pillar of moral support, they will now be in a quandary with one working against the other to demolish their age-old ethics.

Spiritual mentor

They can neither discard those beliefs nor disobey their spiritual mentor. Francis has rocked the very foundation of faith and morality in followers of Roman Catholicism by his revolutionary ideas. He has literally cornered his followers by his latest edict. Do they follow the dogmas practised in their church for centuries? Or, do they obey their spiritual leader to whom they have sworn allegiance?

Again, the pope’s statements ever since he assumed office have seemingly contradicted themselves. This has given leverage to his critics to question his views on sensitive subjects like this one. For example, he published a book in 2010 where he asserts that “same-sex marriage is a weakening of an institution which has existed for thousands of years ….”

Does this mean he has changed his views on the subject? Or that he has grown more tolerant and shed his prejudices? Although, even at that time, he was known to have called upon his fellow bishops to support civil unions among homosexuals as a feasible compromise which they
had flatly refused. By 2013 however, when he was ordained as pope, Francis was more categorical.

In 2014, the newly ordained pope calmly asserted there is a stream of corruption in the churches including a gay lobby! In 2016, Francis returned to his favourite subject. “When a person who is gay arrives before Jesus, Jesus certainly will not say, ‘Go away because you are homosexual?” he told a stunned audience. Come 2019, he was brutally frank and declared that lesbian tendencies “are not a sin.” 

Yet, whether the pope is asserting church dogma or voicing his personal views, there is so much compassion in his statements and actions that sets him apart in the stifling climate of the Vatican. His LGBT parishioners, long used to sneers and disdain from the clergy, have found a friend in Francis who has sworn never to abandon them.

The latest move in this direction is the appointment of an African American to the exalted position of cardinal. It is a reiteration of Christ’s teachings which exhorted his followers to show more compassion to the “leper, the beggar, the fallen woman.”  Francis begs the same compassion for the lesbian, the transgender, the marginalised. Anything wrong in that?