White smoke finally billowed over Vatican City today to announce that Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been selected as the new Pope.
There’s already a bit of controversy surrounding his election. As the first Latin-American Pope, Bergoglio honored his Italian and Argentinian heritage by choosing for himself the name Pope Francis I, rather than taking the name Benedict from his predecessor. Some say the name change may signal a “new chapter” for the Catholic Church.
But gay rights advocates say there’s nothing new about this Pope’s attitudes toward LGBT people.
The National Catholic Reporter‘s John L. Allen Jr. writes that Pope Francis has taken a strongly conservative stance in the past on the social issues Catholics hold dear, especially same-sex adoption and parenting:
Bergoglio is seen an unwaveringly orthodox on matters of sexual morality, staunchly opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception. In 2010 he asserted that gay adoption is a form of discrimination against children, earning a public rebuke from Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Raw Story adds that the new Pope’s staunch opposition to same-sex parenting makes him an equally firm opponent of marriage equality:
In a 2010 letter published in L’Osservatore Romano, Bergoglio asked monasteries to pray “fervently” that lawmakers in Argentina did not go through with plans to legalize same sex marriage because it would “seriously damage the family.”
“At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children,” he wrote. “At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”
“Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
You heard it: Gay marriage is of the devil! The kicker: Argentina passed marriage equality in 2010 anyway, becoming the first Latin American nation to do so. So much for that.
American gay rights groups have already released statements hoping that they find a stronger ally in this Pope than in Benedict, as unlikely as that appears to be:
Along with GLAAD, Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill responded to the new pope’s election, saying: “We hope Pope Francis shows more Christian love and charity to the world’s 420 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people than his predecessor.”
This Pope talks a big game, but those of us who actually stand for equality are not going to lose any sleep over his election. The gay rights movement has faced resistance from some religious groups and individuals since the very beginning, and yet we’ve made incredible progress anyway.
In short: we’re all gonna be okay.