The New Pope and Sexuality

HSX Newsletter Item Fall 2014

By Thomas Gallagher

At the end of a recent Sunday morning mass, I asked the congregation to thank the children who had helped during mass.  There was a light applause.  Then I asked them to thank the choir and there was a greater applause.  Finally, I noted that perhaps, we needed to thank God for the pope.  The church exploded first with applause then cheers and finally half of the congregation was on their feet.  I was amazed.  What had just happened?  A congregation of 600 people all delighted with Pope Francis! 

What was it about this man said that moved this community even to tears? 

Did we applaud at the realization that the pope self-identifies as a sinner yet a man graced by God?  He is one of us. He stands with the community, a leader, yet one who is broken and fragile. In this sinner there is solidarity with all who have been cast aside by those who lay heavy burdens on others but do not lift a finger to help (MT 23:4).  Indeed, he sees himself in Caravaggio’s Call of Matthew, the tax collector.

Did we applaud his discernment that the Gospel of Jesus is the primary lens through which we understand our human relationships?  The dogmas and moral codes are of secondary importance to embodiment of the Gospel call to love.
Did we applaud the sensuous man whose passion for the arts is so clearly reflected? He speaks of the desire to know in a way that is expressed in the senses, to see, to hear, to touch. 
Perhaps we heard him speak of the genius of women and the need for women in areas of decision-making.  Combining the centrality of the Gospel message with the wisdom and commitment of women certainly speaks to the American Religious Women, Sisters, who had a run-in with the Vatican for their commitment to compassionate service over dogma. The realization of the church’s need for the wisdom of women might even open the door to the inclusion of women on the newly founded advisory committee of eight international Cardinals.  For this I cheer.

Perhaps Pope Francis’ desire to be engaged by the narratives of men and women touches our hearts.  He welcomes women who have known the experience of abortion not as a judge but as an advocate in the healing journey of life. He has stepped aside from judging the gay man or lesbian woman.  He welcomes the stories that have shaped a whole community too long estranged by dogma and homophobia.  He even places a phone call to a gay man who had written to him.  We stand for the shift in perspective, for the call to gather everyone under the big tent of God’s inclusive embrace.  Will this lead to the healing that is possible not only for women, the LGBT community but also for those whose stories of abuse have for too long been denied, shunted to lawyers, blamed on the victims?  In this hope I am brought to tears.

Truly, we applaud, cheer, stand, weep because we have been waiting for so long to begin this journey and you, Pope Francis, have chosen to walk with us, to hear our stories, to be changed by the discernment of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in relationship to the lives and loves of his sisters and brothers. Pope Francis, you inspire hope to create a new way of being church.