Pope Francis' words yesterday represent a sea change for the Catholic Church. While he didn't change its dogma (yet), he reminded everyone of its purpose: as a champion for love
As a long-time gay activist and a former Catholic, I am still reeling from the importance of the Pope's words in his newly released interview. His words mark the end of the orthodox John Paul II era as much as the election of Barack Obama ended Reaganism.
Socially-divisive priests like San Francisco's Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone have been put on notice by this new pope. No longer can they treat LGBT people as "intrinsically disordered," second-class citizens, who are regularly castigated against from the pulpit. Instead, Pope Francis' words suggest that Cordileone and his ilk have neglected their core spiritual mission of creating a warm and welcoming environment for all Catholics, while spending most of their time lobbying for "small-minded rules" in the political square. The rabidly anti-gay animus of the conservative Catholic hierarchy has cost the church of millions and millions of followers, like my once-very-Catholic family.
I feel that Francis is calling the RC church to return to the core message of Christ: the power of unconditional love (and providing a welcoming refugee from the suffering of the world). This is a winning formula that meets timeless human needs. Modern people want a church that opens up their hearts and lifts them up -- not judges or controls them.
A few months ago, I saw a segment on BBC TV in which they interviewed one of Pope Francis' spiritual mentors. I forget the elderly priest's name but it was clear that he was a big admirer of Pope John XXIII, the convener of Vatican II. So I am not completely surprised that Pope Francis is turning out to be the most reformist pope since John XXIII and just may be able to save the RC church from irrelevancy.
Clearly, Francis' ascendancy marks the end of John Paul's cold-hearted theo-con era. Like with American politics, change is happening in Catholicism...and not a moment too soon. -- Joe