A recent Pew Research Center survey says that his popularity in the U.S. is continuing to grow and that he is as popular as John Paul II was among Catholics.
The list of things I love about him seems nearly endless: from auctioning off his Harley Davidson and donating the money to a hostel and soup kitchen in Rome (yes, he owned a Harley!) to saying that God is not a “magician with a magic wand” when he reminded people that Catholic beliefs are not inconsistent with evolution and the Big Bang. This Pope not only seems to be helping the Catholic Church move toward a more rational and compassionate perspective, he frequently does it with a bit of modern flare (which is also something that wouldn’t hurt the Church to develop a little).
When you add it all up, I have a #popecrush – in a major way.
But it is fading.
It is fading because of a couple of issues I believe are essential for the Church (including the Catholic Church) to readdress in that “more rational and compassionate” way I was just mentioning.
These two areas are both grounded in equality. For me, equality is a natural outcome of love. And love is certainly central to who we are supposed to be if we’re following the teachings of Jesus – which, I assume, the Catholic Church, would say is pretty important.
The thing is, in a few specific areas, the display of equality that is rooted in love is woefully lacking, not only in the Catholic Church, but also in the words of Pope Francis.
Those two issues are the equality and equal treatment of LGBT folks and women.
I’ve been among the folks who defended Francis in these areas. Saying that the Church has a long way to move on it, so he has to help it take baby steps on these topics. I’d point to things like him saying “who am I to judge?” when it came to gay people as a sign that we need to look at all places where he’s helped the Catholic Church focus on doing the right thing and trust that he’d be doing the same thing for these areas.
Here’s the thing: he’s not.
In both women’s and LGBT rights, he is clearly interested in moving the Church to a more loving position, but he is clearly not interested in moving them to a fully loving position of equality.
So my #popecrush fades.
When it comes to offering full equality to women within the Catholic Church, Pope Frances has said clearly and definitively that “the Church has spoken and says no … that door is closed.”
Sure, he also said that he thinks women should be in more leadership roles and participate in more pastoral activities, but, let’s face it, there’s no such thing as partially equal – it either is or it isn’t.
He certainly seems to have encouraged the Church toward a more loving position. But it’s actually more of a “love the sinner, hate the sin” kind of position (which I have no use for), than it is a position of full equality. Ultimately he says “matrimony is between a man and a woman” and leaves room for civil unions when they are needed to “regulate economic aspects among persons” which seems fairly removed from a loving position to me.
Yet, in the end, I still admire this Pope. His emphasis on most forms of social justice and his notable discomfort with the power and prestige of his position are refreshing and needed… and, frankly, biblical.
But the line in the sand that he seems to have drawn when it comes to LGBT and women’s equality, sadly, are not.
I pray that I am wrong about the Pope with regard to women’s and LGBT status in the Church.
I fear that I am not.
Consider supporting Mark’s blogging. Help create a market for Progressive Christianity. Not through big publishers or big denominations, but through the grassroots. We need to encourage the growth of progressive Christian voices in the marketplace. Even a dollar will help.
Facebook continues to make it increasingly difficult for me to let you know about new blog posts like this. Please consider signing up for my mailing list where we can insure you are notified. Just click here!
Mark is a co-founder of The Christian Left. Come and join the conversation!