Photo by Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
MANILA, Philippines – The Advocate, a leading US-based magazine for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, named Pope Francis as its Person of the Year – “the single most influential person of 2013” on LGBTs.
On Monday, December 16, it acknowledged that the Pope is "still not pro-gay by today's standard,” but it recognized his contribution to a “change in rhetoric” on LGBTs.
In his first papal letter that Benedict XVI began, Pope Francis declared that marriage is a “stable union of man and woman.” Three years earlier, in Buenos Aires, then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio called gay marriage a “destructive attack on God's plan.”
The Advocate noted that as Cardinal Bergoglio, he took the extra step and supported same-sex civil unions as an alternative to gay marriage. He reportedly called it “the lesser of two evils.”
The magazine said that in March, Marcelo Marquez, a gay rights activist from Argentina, told the New York Times that Bergoglio “listened to my views with a great deal of respect. He told me that homosexuals need to have recognized rights and that he supported civil unions, but not same-sex marriage."
The Advocate said: “As Pope, he has not yet said the Catholic Church supports civil unions. But what Francis does say about LGBT people has already caused reflection and consternation within his church. The moment that grabbed headlines was during a flight from Brazil to Rome. When asked about gay priests, Pope Francis told reporters, according to a translation from Italian, 'If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?'”
'Consider the person'
“The brevity of that statement and the outsized attention it got immediately are evidence of the Pope's sway. His posing a simple question with very Christian roots, when uttered in this context by this man, 'Who am I to judge?' became a signal to Catholics and the world that the new Pope is not like the old pope,” the magazine said.
It also cited his views on homosexuality in his interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal.
Francis told La Civiltà Cattolica: “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”
In the same interview, he connected this with the “need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner.”
The Pope said: “In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the Church has always condemned them. But the Church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”
'He spoke compassionately'
Unlike other priests, Francis added, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.”
“I have not spoken much about these things,” he continued, “and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.
The Advocate said that instead of denouncing gays, the Pope “spends his time talking about the harm of greed and the lack of focus on fairness and fighting poverty.”
The magazine quoted Equally Blessed, an LGBT organization for Catholics, that said the Pope “uttered some of the most encouraging words a pontiff has ever spoken about gay and lesbian people.”
“Pope Francis did not articulate a change in the Church’s teaching today,” the group said, “but he spoke compassionately, and in doing so, he has encouraged an already lively conversation that may one day make it possible for the Church to fully embrace gay and lesbian Catholics.”
Time Magazine also named Francis as its person of the year for 2013. Its managing editor, Nancy Gibbs, said the Pope shifted the discussion among Catholics from “small minded rules” to compassion. (READ: Time Magazine names Pope Francis person of the year 2013.)
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.