catholic women

Pope Francis Dodges Binarism and Raises Questions for All

Photo of Pope Francis in white vestments from March 2013by Jessica Mason McFadden

Let’s talk Pope for a few minutes. The figurehead’s been in the news lately, and has, I guess you could say, a fairly big circle of influence. Clearly, it’s time that we, as feminists, weigh in respectfully and thoughtfully with whatever we’ve got. I’ll begin:

When I heard the news that He had spoken of the homos, I knew very well that I would be able to divine meaning from his words. The way that I heard about it, however, still gives me a chuckle. I was in a graduate-level Religious Studies class, of all places! At the start of class, a classmate who studies broadcasting asked if any of us would like to speak about Pope Francis’ comments for his campus news opinion segment. Immediately, I wanted to speak, but there was only one problem: I didn’t know anything about what the Pope had said.

Right away, I asked what he had said and the room was filled with an incoherent mess about Pope Francis’ remarks on homosexuality, about him not wanting to comment, about him saying that homosexuality is a sin but you can be forgiven if you don’t commit homosexual acts. I felt lost in a papal abyss of homoerotic ambiguity.

We pulled up an article and I got a general idea, but still felt uninformed.  Nevertheless, I formulated a statement, suggesting that if we’re confused about what the Pope meant that we ask him directly what he meant. I also threw in a line about encouraging the Pope to allow women to serve as members of the clergy, after which I went blank from camera fright.

When I returned to my seat, I regretted that I did not go up with my fingers in peace signs and croon, “Sineaaaaaad” in my best Bill & Ted voice. I also regretted that I had not responded to my classmate’s question by discussing the fact that there are many, many, mannnnny homosexuals already in the church, since his question implied that homosexuals somehow exist entirely outside of it. The priesthood, in my bold but gently-intended opinion, is a largely homoerotic institution. The fact that we can speak about homosexuality as if it is outside of the church is by far the most baffling aspect of this whole is-this-or-is-this-not-controversy exchange.

Clergy aside, apparently there is still some confusion about where Pope Francis stands on contemporary political issues, but much of that has to do with our collective desire for concretes to fight, either for or against.

Thanks to his interview with Rev. Antonio Spadaro, we have a few more clues. According to my decoding, when it comes to homosexuality, Pope Francis puts the person first. Essentially, he doesn’t exactly say what the church should say to homosexuals. Instead, he poses more questions. Sure, it may be a moment of rhetorical deflection, but I like to think he’s offering a wise and high-minded response.

In not answering the question in terms of judgment, he sets an excellent example for anyone. In other words, by not condemning, he offers acceptance. He also offers depersonalized wisdom, saying, “it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.” Read more

Posted on by Jessica Mason McFadden in Feminism, LGBT Leave a comment