By now the entire universe is acutely aware of the election of the new pope: 76 year old Jorge Mario Bergoglio, aka Francis I. He’s the first non-European pope since the 8th century, and the first from the Americas since … well … ever. Fitting, since about 40% of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics are on this side of The Pond.
Like most non-believers and non-Catholics in general, I wondered if this was actually going to translate into something meaningful. I know this is supposed to be a big deal within those of the faith, but I was more curious as to whether or not the Catholic Church’s stance on any of the hot button issues of the day would go through any kind of reconciliation with modern society and its movement into the 21st century.
The new Pope is a theological conservative and those looking for a change in the Church’s stance on abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception will be disappointed. He is staunchly orthodox on issues of sexual morality.
I wouldn’t say he’s just “orthodox”, though. He and others went out of their way to make the true depth of their feelings known about some of these “issues of sexual morality” – or, more to the point, issues of sexual orientation that is interpreted as “immoral” by Catholic leadership. Say, homosexuality, for example:
When Argentina in mid-July legalized gay marriage, the country’s Catholic bishops weren’t content to simply denounce the legislation; they used the occasion to argue for the subhumanity of homosexual men and lesbians, the way many white Southern preachers weren’t ashamed to degrade African Americans during the civil rights movement. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio not only called the new law “a scheme to destroy God’s plan”; he termed it “a real and dire anthropological throwback,” as if homosexuality were evolutionarily inferior to heterosexuality.
He went further to denounce the prospect of adoption by same-sex couples as being “discriminatory” …
“The Argentinean people will have to confront, in the coming weeks, a situation whose result could gravely injure the family. We are speaking of a bill regarding marriage between people of the same sex,” a bill that calls into question “the identity, and the survival of the family: father, mother, and children.” The latter, warns Bergoglio, might also be threatened by homosexual adoption, which would be a true form of discrimination.
… and, to round it off, spoke out against abortion, even in cases of incest or rape of mentally disabled women.
In a speech given to a gathering of priests and laity on October 2nd , the cardinal pointed out that people say that “we aren’t in agreement with the death penalty,” but “in Argentina we have the death penalty. A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death.”
One thing I have to point out is that he – like his immediate predecessor – has a slightly more realistic view on the use of contraception than John Paul ever did, in accepting the fact that they can be used to effectively prevent the spread of AIDS, which is completely devastating the continent. Additionally, he’s done a great deal during his time in Argentina to fight for the more (economically) marginalized elements of society. So at least there’s that.
All in all, it’s basically what I expected. Huge media fanfare for a couple of days, white smoke, fresh new face. But in the end, that fresh new face is delivering a very familiar message. Nothing more to see here.
EDIT: OMG HE JUST RESIGNED.