Five Truly Radical Things Pope Francis Could Do To Improve The Catholic Church

pope-francis-iToday marks the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis as head of the Catholic Church, and at least in terms of the volume of extrapolation that has accompanied his few pronouncements, it’s been a great success.

On the basis of a few comments in which he refused to summon hellfire and damnation in talking about gay people, Francis has been declared the LGBT community’s gay Moses, ready to lead us out of the desert of the Vatican policy. That this title has been bestowed upon him by some in the community itself doesn’t make it any less dubious.

Not to diminish the change in tone that Pope Francis represents, but it would be nice to see them backed up with some specific actions. Here are a list of things that the pope could do to prove that he really does want the Church to change its attitude toward LGBT people.

1. Tell Catholic schools to stop picking on gay and lesbian teachers. Catholic schools in the U.S. seem to like nothing better than firing well-respected teachers for getting married or, better still, for listing a partner in a parent’s obituary. The ostensible reason is that being gay violates Church policy, although the policy seems to be enforced only when it comes to gay and lesbian teachers. (When was the last time you heard about a teacher getting canned for using contraceptives?) As a practice, it not only guarantees bad press, but it drives a wedge between young people and the Church, who can’t understand why good people should be punished for no good reason.

2. Let priests know that “Who am I to judge?” isn’t just for the pope. One of the most offensive practices that flourished under Pope Francis’s predecessors was when priests took it upon themselves to determine who is a good Catholic because they knew better than God. Usually, this has been applied to politicians who support abortion rights, but, of course, it included gay and lesbian people too. One especially shameful incident recently occurred in which a priest called a woman who had been a leader in her parish for 12 years to tell her he would not give her Communion at her mother’s funeral. With pastoral skills like that, the priest should consider a career that never requires him to have contact with people again.

3. Come out in favor of nondiscrimination laws. Out of all the LGBT issues around, nondiscrimination protections should be a no-brainer. (Even some Republicans favor them!) Instead, the hierarchy insists that bills that would prohibit people for being fired from their jobs are actually worse than someone getting fired. That’s a warped perspective, to say the least. Saying that people should be judged solely on their merits is hardly a radical concept, and it doesn’t imply that the pontiff will next be donning lavender vestments to hold a mass gay wedding in St. Peter’s Square. What it does say is that human dignity demands that workers be treated fairly, which is a core concept of Catholic teaching, even if it has always made an exception for gay workers (see item 1).

4. Reprimand the bishops in Nigeria. Nigeria’s Catholic bishops have been vocal supporters of the country’s brutal laws against homosexuality. These laws have led to the arrests of dozens of people in the country, who are frequently beaten and threatened with death. That the Church would ally itself with such repression is a scandal that the pope should quickly put an end to with a few well-placed, public words.

5. End the rhetoric equating pedophilia and gayness. In an effort to direct attention away from its own horrendous complicity in the sexual abuse of children, the Vatican has consciously linked pedophilia and gayness. That this connection flies in the face of all science and in fact was debunked by the Vatican’s own study hasn’t stopped the Church and some of its lesser stooges from insisting that gay priests were the cause of the scandal. The pope could stop that nonsense once and for all, while also acknowledging the compound damage the Church’s cover up caused to all the victims.

Now, none of these suggestions is particularly radical. They don’t challenge Church teaching on the nature of homosexuality or its opposition to marriage equality. All they do is acknowledge that LGBT people should be treated with respect, an idea that is clearly in keeping with the pope’s pastoral approach.

But there are two questions. Can Pope Francis afford to take even these modest steps? He may be the head man, but the Church is a vast institution infested with priests, bishops and cardinals who are far less willing to live and let live than Francis seems to be. The resistance to even small change may be too massive for the pope to break. For example, the Church is already seeing the same kind of fault lines emerging between the developed nations and the Third World that have riven the Episcopal Church. Taking on these issues could cause a rupture Francis may want to avoid.

More to the point, does Francis really want the Church to change? In tone, he clearly does, but maybe not in policy, even in modest ways. He may be perfectly happy with the way things are. After all, he just promoted a bishop who calls homosexuality a “defect.” Sometimes the pope sends a mixed message. Some liberals celebrated when Francis demoted arch-conservative Cardinal Burke,but neglected to recognize that at the same time he promoted Cardinal Wuerl, who has been a leader in the Church’s antigay crusade in the U.S.

That’s hardly a ringing endorsement of moderation.

But then again, we don’t know how moderate the pope really is. What just have a few statements that the press have picked over endlessly. Whether the pope will back them up with action remains to be seen.

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  • QJ201

    6. Open the vaults. Allow historians to review church records

    7. Sell off the antiquities and gold and FEED THE POOR

    8. Allow priests to marry

    9. Women priests

    10. Pay taxes on all properties except for churches, schools, and service agencies

  • sunaz

    While it’s great with all these suggestions about the Catholic Church, when are you planning to issue guidance to the various Imams of the world’s biggest religion? majority of the world’s nations that allow for death or mutilation of gays happen to come from Muslim majority nations.

  • bmwblonde

    Sunaz has a point — the RCC is certainly NOT the only hate and fear-driven, feeding-on poverty-and ignorance, organized “religion” in the world. All the lockstep, cookbook’ formula religions appeal to people who are fear-based, uneducated (ranging from accidentally to perversely / stubbornly ignorant), narrow and intensely primate-TRIBAL. For such legions of misguided humans, hating “The Other” provides them with yet another Illusion: that they are “safe.”) Whereas their only real “safety” would come from a massive consciousness shift – TO knowing that Dune was right: “fear is the mind-killer.”

    Probably the rage and disappointment with the Catholic church felt in the West comes from the fact that in the past it has been a core part of Western Culture. That statement is entirely different from saying that church has been a force for good, on which question it has been a striking and hypocritical failure (patriarchy, hatred of women, hatred of all “heretics,” antipathy to all science, alliance with horrendous political despots, totally Machiavellian and cynical tactics for centuries ~ see “Jesuits”). Some “spiritual” outfit!

    But there’re still in many people a “belief” or a “hope” that this institution would walk its original talk. Whereas in all our un-consciousnesses, Islam is “alien” (not part of “our” culture) — i.e., the hated/dreaded OTHER. So we dismiss ITS very massive (and currently prominent) dark side as part of its alien nature. In other words, Westerners have no investment or hope for Islam, not knowing well ITS mystical and spiritual promise (largely unkept as well, no doubt, because spirituality does NOT “institutionalize” worth a damn).

    I keep envisioning the world as John Lennon described it in “Imagine.” Awake, un-damaged, loving humans do not NEED “religion,” and in fact — see it for what it is: an appeal to our lower Primate / Tribal, terror-based brain. So it goes.

  • Marco

    Catholic school board’s don’t even know their own doctrine when firing gay teachers. “Being” gay doesn’t violate any church teachings, which are memorialized in the Catechism, even though lots of gay and straight sexual acts violate the catechism.

    Church teachings state in #2358: [Homosexuals] must be ACCEPTED with RESPECT, COMPASSION, and SENSITIVITY. EVERY SIGN of UNJUST DISCRIMINATION in their regard SHOULD BE AVOIDED. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives.
    2392 “Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being” (FC 11).

    Since when is firing a respected teacher showing acceptance, respect, compassion and sensitivity?

  • Sidi

    QJ201,Like I get we all for equality and all and I’d like to see that in the church as a gay catholic myself, but I still agree with the church on some topics, eg, women priests.

  • Ruhlmann

    Women priests won’t make a difference in church policy. They’ll just parrot this criminal organization’s mindless superstitions. This pope is against marriage equality and even same sex unions. The catholic church needs to wither and die and have it’s possessions sold off.

  • TheNewEnergyDude

    Some truly radical things he could do?

    Burn the Vatican buildings down to the ground.
    Burn all the bibles.
    Let the whole vile, corrupt business who profits off of other peoples fear and misery wither up and die a quick death.

  • 1EqualityUSA

    Apply the same standards onto themselves, as they have attempted to imposed onto the world, stay out of politics, lose idolatry, lose the fancy garbs and robes, teach more about Christ, less about human endeavors, prosecute pedophiles immediately, stop using gay brothers and sisters as a catalyst for generating fear-based donations, and quit heaping up treasures on Earth, wallowing in futility. Stay above and outside of politics, pandering to politicians shows weakness.

  • SteveDenver

    Why do people think this Pope holds the remedy for all that is wrong with Catholicism. Best thing he could do: admit it’s all a falsehood and a money scheme.

  • Paulie

    Like most religions, I believe, Roman Catholicism is about “control” of its worshipers, and what better way to control people, and keep them ignorant, than to lay the blame of the world’s “evils” and “sin”, at the on those who are “different”? This type of sanctioned bigotry goes all the way back to the Crusades, and even further back…so its going to take a truly massive shift in belief for the Catholic church to reverse its “traditional” homophobia.

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