Pope Francis has made another of those unexpected, off-the-cuff (or was it?) remarks that have the world media atwitter. This time, he referred to that "gay lobby" in the Curia we heard about around the time Benedict resigned just after having received a report informing him of the existence of such a lobby. At her Iglesia Descalza blog site, Rebel Girl offers a summary of what Francis said.
As she notes, he was addressing the Confederación Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Religiosas y Religiosos, leaders of Catholic religious communities in Latin America (CLAR). His theme: "Open doors . . . Open doors!" He told the heads of religious communities to whom he was speaking to "open doors, do something wherever life demands it," because not acting when life demands that doors be opened leads to sickness in the church.
In this context, he noted the challenge of reforming the Curia, adding as an aside that the gay lobby about which we've heard talk does exist, and needs to be dealt with. And here are some of the responses to Francis's off-the-cuff remark that I've found worth reading in the days after he made it:
Alberto Melloni of the John XXIII Center in Bologna, as quoted by Rachel Donadio in the New York Times:
"He’s [i.e., Pope Francis] right to talk about it. It breaks the mechanism in which omertà favors the use of blackmail. If no one talks about it, it’s a powerful weapon. In that way, he’s cut the issue down to size and conveys the sense that reforming the Curia is easy."
"This is a question of blackmail and blackmailability, not homosexuality," he added.
The pope’s cryptic statement about a “gay lobby” doesn’t do anything to explain what a “gay lobby” actually is, how it’s gay lobbying and what it’s gay lobbying for — or what the Vatican intends to do about what Francis calls the “difficult” work of reforming the genuinely corrupt aspects of the huge worldwide organization he recently became the leader of. But already his actions have revealed a Hillary-like determination to do it his way, protocol be damned.
Right off the bat, he shunned living in the papal palace, explaining, "I need to live with other people. I don’t think it would be good for me to live alone." In March, he cheerfully blew conservative Catholics’ minds during a traditional Holy Thursday ritual by washing and kissing the feet of two female prisoners, including a Serbian Muslim, at a youth detention center. The rite has in the past been a far more symbolic Holy Week one, performed by the pope on priests. Certainly not, gasp, female inmates. At the time, Lombardi wincingly explained that "excluding the girls would have been inopportune." And in May, Francis called for a "culture of encounter" that includes atheists, and called the apostles "a little intolerant" of outsiders. The Vatican once again quickly mansplained what he really meant, saying, "They cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her."
I would like to believe that this revelation will lead the pope to the conclusion that a vast, secretive bureaucracy modeled on a Renaissance court is anathema to spirituality and a positive breeder reactor for intrigue and criminality, and generally not at all what a certain wandering revisionist First Century rabbi had in mind, and that it's time to blow up this absurd feast of fat things and get back to the basic message of the gospels.
I would like to believe that the overall reaction is not going to be, "Oooooh, scary gays are bad!"
But I am not betting on it.
At National Catholic Reporter, Bill Freeman responds to a comment bringing the discussion of Francis's gay-lobby remark into a conversation about the Supreme Court and marriage equality:
If there is a gay lobby it has done a wonderful job excluding and demonizing gay people. Does this make sense? I am reminded of McCarthy's "a communist under every busy."*
All these folks seem to me to be on the correct track, while the Catholic right wants to use Francis's gay-lobby comment to engage in continued gay-bashing and continued blaming of gay priests for the pedophile scandal. As Alberto Melloni says, the existence of a "gay lobby" in the Vatican is a "question of blackmail and blackmailability, not homosexuality." As Mary Elizabeth Williams notes, the gay-lobby rhetoric doesn't have the automatic explanatory force that right-wing Catholics want it to have, but must be situated within the context of Vatican corruption in general to make any sense at all.
And then there's the gospel, as Charles Pierce points out, and the Jewish rabbi who proclaimed it and was crucified for doing so, which, juxtaposed with the Renaissance court that has become the governing structure of the Roman Catholic church is . . . rather strange. And it might simply be easier, all things considered, for many Catholics to keep blaming the bugbear gays than to look at that strange disconnect between Jesus and the gospel, and the Renaissance court that runs the church.
And if there is a gay lobby inside the Vatican, haven't they done a strange job of promoting the interests of gays and protecting gay folks worldwide from Catholic persecution and oppression, as Bill Freeman asks? Almost makes you think that gay lobby has been part of the problem, when it comes to defending the humanity and human rights of gay folks everywhere in the world, and not part of the solution, doesn't it?
*I think Bill Freeman meant to write "bush" instead of "busy."
The graphic is Jantiff-Stocks's wonderful photo "The Open Door" from deviantART.