Italy is one of the major European countries that doesn’t recognize marriage equality for its LGBTQ denizens in spite of the fact that the majority of Italians do, according to a 2014 poll. In January 2015 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy was in violation of human rights by not recognizing civil partnership and same-sex marriage.
This week, to the cheers and adulation of supporters of LGBTQ civil rights, a debate will be presented in the senate pushing finally for its legalization. The one person you least expect in opposition to the debate is Pope Francis. And in anticipation of the upcoming debate the pontiff made his position abundantly clear.
“There can be no confusion between the family God wants and any other type of union,” the pontiff told Vatican Judges. “The family, founded on indissoluble matrimony that unites and allows procreation, is part of God’s dream and that of his Church for the salvation of humanity.” The country, however, has a more expansive embrace of Pope Francis theological concept of today’s lived reality of “the family of God.”
In January 2013, for example, the court granted sole custody of a child to a lesbian mother in spite of the father’s claim that the mother’s sexual orientation “would be dangerous for the child.” And in July 2013, to the shock and awe of its citizens, the Court of Bologna chose a gay couple to be foster parents of a three year old.
I recall Pope Francis’ remarks when flying home after a weeklong visit to Brazil in 2013 (which set off global shock waves) where the pontiff was queried about the much talked about “gay lobby” in the Vatican: “When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?” This public statement is the most LGBTQ affirmative remarks the world has ever heard from the Catholic Church.
In 2013, The Advocate, a nationally renowned and respected magazine, named Pope Francis their “Person of the Year.” Pope Francis continues to send seismic shock waves across the globe with his liberal-leaning pronouncements, but the pontiff is complicated, if not confusing, to the LGBTQ community.
On the surface Francis displays a pastoral countenance to his papacy that extends to all of our community. Sadly, his welcoming tone to us and the church’s unwelcoming policies he upholds don’t match, especially when it comes to “the family of God.”
Last year the Meeting of Families in Philadelphia included only one workshop on LGBTQ issues — a panel with a celibate gay Catholic and his mother, and no workshop on LGBTQ families. But his point about LGBTQ families and marriages got across loud and clear during his talk to Congress with his subtle jab at gay marriage.
“I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.”
While it might be argued that the Pope Francis’ understanding about human sexual orientation, especially LGBTQ’s, is expanding, and his concern for the dignity and humanity of LGBTQ people is genuinely shown, the pontiff is still a doctrinal conservative, one who holds largely to the Catholic Church’s universal catechism on homosexuality.
His views on gay priests, while not quite in lockstep with its Catholic LGBTQ parishioners and allies, have, nonetheless, moved the farthest of any pontiff in history. Supporters and activists of the “gay lobby” in the Curia emphatically state that this brave and visible group is essential to the running of the Vatican as well as protecting themselves from the church’s hypocrisy in scapegoating them for many of the social ills of the church.
However, it’s not enough for Francis to say he embraces our community. He must also do it.
Rev. Irene Monroe is a Huffington Post blogger and freelance journalist.