Jesus said, “Judge not lest you be judged.” Pope Francis asked, “Who am I to judge?”
By reconnecting the church to Jesus’ words, this Pope has moved his church inexorably toward justice for gays and lesbians. Francis stressed homosexuals should be treated with dignity (unlike the treatment they endure from the pen of some WTE letter writers) and not marginalized.
“If someone is gay,” said the Vicar of Christ, “and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Peter’s denied knowing Jesus three times. Jesus forgave him but asked Peter three times, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Assured Peter loves him, Jesus entrusted Peter with the care of his flock. Thus Peter is considered the first Pope.
Gays and lesbians wish they had only needed to ask three times whether the church loves them. After decades in which the church has shamefully rejected homosexuals, opposed efforts to protect their rights to be an integral part of society, and marginalized them, at long last Christ’s representative on earth has made it clear to the flock. "The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some," Francis said.
The Pope’s words must have shocked the Catholic hierarchy. In 2005, during the reign of the resigned Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican issued directives barring from the priesthood men "who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called 'gay culture."
While the Pope said he wouldn’t judge gay priests, he did judge those in the Vatican whom he said “lobby” for gay rights. Hopefully he’ll be equally critical of the lobbying in which the Church engages to deny gays and lesbians basic civil rights.
While the Catholic Church has not yet made a complete 180-degree turn, the weight of the Pope’s promise to neither judge nor marginalize homosexuals is earthshaking. Pope Francis’ words are a departure from earlier Vatican directives and even a departure from his own earlier thinking. When the Argentine government legalized gay marriage, then Bishop Bergoglio was opposed, calling it "a destructive attack on God's plan."
It would be a mistake to think that the Catholic Church will immediately support marriage equality. Yet, if the Pope were serious when he says homosexuals should not be marginalized, it would seem that at the very least the church should support legislation protecting gays and lesbians from job related discrimination.
Today most states, including Wyoming, allow sexual-orientation-based discrimination. Good workers can be fired, denied a promotion, and be otherwise marginalized simply for being who God made them to be. Earlier this year the Wyoming legislature endorsed this form of discrimination when it defeated legislation which would have protected LGBT workers from discrimination.
Pope Francis’ words are at odds with the position taken last month by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. In a letter setting forth their reasons to oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Bishops said that while they’re against “unjust discrimination” against people with “a homosexual inclination” they believed that protecting them from job-based discrimination was tantamount to protecting sexual conduct outside of marriage.
Of course, the bill doesn’t do that. It simply provides protections to homosexual and transgender workers similar to protections afforded to other minority groups under the Civil Rights and Americans with Disabilities Acts.
In Wyoming, the Bishop withdrew his church from the Wyoming Association of Churches this year complaining about positions taken by the Association in the legislature. WAC lobbied against the lottery, for prohibiting sex-trafficking, for Medicaid expansion and for a tax increase on cigarettes. But what most likely got the Bishop’s ire was WAC’s work to end employment related discrimination against homosexuals.
In large organizations it takes time for decisions made at the top to reach the bottom. Catholic or not, Christian or not, like it or not…what the Pope says matters. While, for now, the Bishops continue to judge homosexuals, the Pope and Jesus are, alas, of one accord. What is it about “judge not” that’s so hard to understand?