Critics Speculate Over Pope Francis’ Anti-Gay Past
When it was announced that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was appointed to become the new pope, critics and LGBT activists poured over the Argentinian's history, especially his track record on gay issues, to see how he would guide the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
Many hoped for a pope who was more liberal on social issues, like gay marriage and abortion. As gossip website Gawker points out, most American Catholics now accept the use of birth control. Over half are in favor of gay marriage.
It wasn't too long after the announcement that media sources began to report that Bergoglio, now to be known as Pope Francis, hasn't been the biggest supporter of gay rights. In June 2010, a month before Argentina legalized same-sex marriage, Bergoglio wrote a letter to the Carmelite Nuns of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires in which he stated that a marriage equality bill before the South American nation's legislature was the work of the devil and that fight against gay marriage is "a war of God."
"Let's not be naïve, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God," the New Yorker reported. "We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God."
After Argentina became the first country in Latin America to recognize same-sex marriage in July 2010, Bergoglio turned his attention to gay adults adopting children. He condemned gay adoption as "discrimination" against children and compared President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's views on the issue to "medieval times and the Inquisition."
Bergoglio's record does not "suggest that the Church will be any more welcoming to gay Catholics or on the subject of gay rights," the New Yorker reported. Several members of the LGBT community have expressed similar concerns.
"I think a lot of gay Catholics have given up on the church, and rightfully so," said Leo Egashira of Seattle. Egashira, who serves on the national board of directors for Dignity USA, an Catholic LGBT rights group, told Seattle's NBC affiliate King5, "Frankly, because all the cardinals that voted today were selected by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who are both very conservative, it's hard to expect a lot of change, even though I'm hoping for it."
Mary Dispenza, a resident of Bellevue, Wash., said she was raised Catholic but and even entered a convent for 15 years. "In 1993, I came out as a woman who was a lesbian in the Catholic Church," she said. She was then fired from her position as director of the Pastoral Life Services Department and forced to leave the church after she came out, she added.
"If you're living your life out as a gay person, there's no room for you in the leadership of the Catholic church," Dispenza said. She added that she would be thrilled if Bergoglio suddenly decided to welcome the LGBT community to the Catholic Church, but she has no expectations that he will do anything of the sort.
"I don't think the Catholic Church will change its stance on women as priests, contraceptives, and I don't think they'll change their position on gays," she said.
In a statement on its website, GLAAD called Pope Francis a "status quo" leader. "We hope this pope will trade in his red shoes for a pair of sandals and spend a lot less time condemning and a lot more time foot-washing," the statement read.