Just like Rio de Janiero stole our 2016 Summer Olympics, it looks like another South American country (damn Argentina!) has swiped our chance at the first American Pope. This week the archbishop (“really big bishop”) of Buenos Aires was magically transformed into Pope Francis I (do we even use I or do the numbers start at II?). Catholic friends whose judgment I trust are reportedly happy about this development as Francis will be the first Latin American vicar of Christ–and a Jesuit to boot! Most of my Catholic friends are Jesuits, so obviously their opinion is biased.
Confession: I attended a Jesuit law school. I even took a small law school class led by a Jesuit priest with whom I had a private lunch at Ralph Lauren. He paid. Long story short, my opinion on the matter is also suspect. I wouldn’t blame you if you stop reading now because this blog post was being written at the command of my Jesuit masters. I’m easily bought.
I digress. Being a one-dimensional person, upon hearing the glorious news of the Pope’s naming (how we survived a few days without a Pope still baffles), I immediately Googled to get his opinion on gay rights. I know what you’re thinking. That’s like Googling to find out which of the Dixie Chicks is the talented one. The answer is obvious: all of them. Why bother Googling Pope candidates on gay rights. They are all against it. That’s what you were thinking, wasn’t it? And you’d be right. But I didn’t know that at the time, so cut me some slack.
After a Google search that returned 250,000,000 items and took .13 seconds I learned from the Huffington Post:
In 2010 Bergoglio said about a gay marriage bill in Argentina that “At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”
He went on to describe it as a “‘move of the Father of Lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.” In John 8:44, the Father of Lies is the devil.
I wasn’t expecting an archbishop who has “Gay Pride Parade Grand Marshal” on his (“her” is not a pronoun that could ever apply here) resume. But I was at least hoping for a guy who was a little more subdued on the sexual issues. Dreams shattered.
Normally I could pick up the pieces after this disappointment by remembering: “I’m not Catholic, so what the hell do I care what their leader says?”
But I couldn’t shake it off this time. Why? Because I read news like this on the same day that Bergoglio became Francis:
[In a discussion about the prospects for the gay marriage bill in the Illinois House]…One House Democrat I talked with last week wants to vote for gay marriage, but his strongly Catholic wife is absolutely, completely dead set against it.
Read that sentence again and then take a moment to bang your head against the nearest solid object four or five times (whatever number seems appropriate to you). What should I discuss: why it is idiotic for a legislator to vote to deny equal rights because his wife says so OR why it is idiotic for a legislator to vote to deny equal rights because one particular Church doctrine thinks those people are influenced by the devil? I don’t have time to discuss both. I’ll just go with the church one, because this whole post is mostly about Popes.
Believe it or not this anonymous Democratic legislator’s wife is not the only Catholic working to ensure gay couples are never allowed to marry. For example, Chicago’s own archbishop, Cardinal Francis George (totally different Francis) penned a letter which said:
[Allowing gay marriage would force people to] “pretend to accept something that is contrary to the common sense of the human race.”
Sheesh Cardinal Francis George, tell me how you really feel. I don’t recall every saying a bad word about you…at least before this post. You’ll be happy to know that after reading your thoughtful letter I sat down and seriously contemplated whether the most important, intimate relationship of my life was indeed “contrary to the common sense of the human race.” And while I cannot speak for the rest of the human race, for my own sake I concluded that you were full of shit.
Making matters worse (I’m no longer writing as if I’m talking to the Cardinal), this letter was required to be read in virtually all Catholic churches in Illinois. Besides talking about the human race, it called on parishioners–everyday Catholics; good folks–to call their legislators to ensure that state law only allows people to get married if the Catholic church deems them worthy (divorced people?).
So where are we now?
Awaiting a final vote in the Illinois House which would end one more vestige of enshrined legal discrimination. But depending on who you talk to we are either one or five or ten or twelve votes behind. Everyone agrees that it’s a bit shaky.
Keep in mind, this is in a chamber made up of 71 Democrats when only 60 votes are needed for passage. Even if we assume that not a single Republican will do the right thing (*sigh*), that still means that one to two dozen Illinois Democrats are prepared to permanently put their names in the history books with a vote for discrimination. (In a few decades I’m sure they will have good excuses worked up for why they had no backbone when it counted most).
What on earth are they thinking? My guess: they are scared of angry church letters. And wives. It’s mostly the wives fault. Which is why I have taken a vow to never marry a woman.
P.S. In all seriousness, I do wish Pope Francis the best. May he use the position he’s been given to heal more people on the planet than he harms.
P.P.S. Statistics actually show that wives generally support marriage equality at far higher rates than husbands.