Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Pope of Hope? Perhaps!

A lot of brouhaha has been made of the recent election of Pope Francis. There has been a stream of emails celebrating and lauding the fact that he is the first non-European and the first Jesuit. While these little tidbits of information are a cause of celebration for the Church, I believe we should focus our attention on the hard facts of what really affects the Church today and what role Pope Francis will play in opening the Church for the spirit of love and change to sweep into it.

(Image Taken: Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)
Honestly, regarding the choice of cardinals for the pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis) was far from inspiring. With a history of vocally opposing same-sex marriage and gay adoption, and stigmatizing the “love” between people, he ought not to even have been in a position of authority. Such an act is an abuse of power and an injustice. The demeaning actions of those in authority have wide reaching repercussions, especially when preached from the pulpit.

The church equates homosexuality with sin, which goads innocent people with guilt, shame, depression, self-loathing and often suicidal tendencies. For each vocal condemnation of homosexuality there are forty times as many acts of violence inflicted upon homosexual and transsexual people in different parts of the world. The sanction for these acts inevitably stems from religious intolerance for queer people. The tumult and ostracism not only cripples queer individuals, but also their families and their close friends. How can an organization which claims to be built on the foundation of love be so violent towards its own people? How long will the Church wield its power through a dynamics of shame and guilt, rather than love? Would the Church ever accept the onus of violence it inflicts through its intolerance for queer people?

In an interview just before his death, the late Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a man of dialogue and a good listener, stated that questions about sexuality and the human body “are important questions for everyone and sometimes they seem even too important. We have to ask ourselves if people are still listening to the advice of the Church regarding sexuality. Is the Church still an authoritative point of reference in this field or is it just a caricature in the media?” In order to rouse the Church which “is 200 years behind the times” he suggests that the Pope and the bishops choose“12 unconventional people to take on leadership roles.” I pray that these twelve people would in honesty and humility have a warm and open dialogue with those whom it considers its sexual outcasts: its own homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, divorced men and women, and also its closeted priests and nuns. 

Fortunately the spirit of love has already begun to stir within the Church. At least there is a glimmer of hope. Though this is an episode in New York at the McQuaid Jesuit High School, the decision taken by Father Edward Salmon S.J. has takeaways for all of us anywhere. When it had been rumoured that two gay students would not be allowed to go on a prom together, an online petition had been formed supporting them. Father Edward Salmon wrote a letter to “to open up a horizon of hope, to let a ray of light break through heavy clouds” in the McQuaid family stating that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” and permitted the two boys to attend the prom. Such deeds show exemplary courage by leaders who strive to build communities of love. We can only hope that we witness many more such instances of goodwill and love. Perhaps the Holy Catholic Church needs time to evolve on its position regarding homosexuality. We can only pray and hope that Pope Francis’ papacy would evolve on its position on homosexuality.  

While many readers would like to assume that such changes are happening in the US and Europe, and wonder how it affects places like India, it is imperative that they are aware that those who tread in silence on the horizons of their society are now beginning to voice their understanding of themselves and their rights. In societies like ours, thousands languish in needless guilt and acute self-loathing. Hopefully in honesty and love, those who have been contemplating suicide because of their difference, would stop themselves and the thousands who have been silently suffering would not. Moreover, those queer people who are forced into marriages against their choice would not do so. If the church has to play a meaningful role in improving people's lives, it has to embrace the complexities and challenges in integrating their sexual and spiritual lives. Rather than shutting its doors on people, it ought to invite its outcastes to share at the banquet of the Lord. The living examples of the Holy family are those individuals who live in love, despite the opposition and tumult in their life.


Martini, Carlo Maria. “The Final Interview.” TheTablet. 8th September, 2012.

Amey,Ben. “McQuaid Juniors Allowed to go to Ball Together.”{%2210151322095250872%22%3A119349794922757}&action_type_map={%2210151322095250872%22%3A%22og.likes%22}&action_ref_map=[]