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Dr. David Berger Headshot

Pope Francis -- 'Man of the Year' for Gay People?

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'Fortiter in re, suaviter in modo' was the motto of Claudio Aquaviva, one of the most famous Jesuits of the Counter-Reformation period. This could be translated to "gently in manner, strongly in deed." With this motto we find ourselves stuck in the dilemma that the first Jesuit in the Pope's court poses, especially evident in his latest big interview.

The manner of conveying information, particularly the gentleness in tone, has once again pushed the media to burst in jubilation for the Pope.

This goes so far, that at the end of the past year the globally renowned LGBT-news magazine Advocate picked Pope Francis as Personality of the Year for his liberal stance concerning homosexuals.

We had actually gotten accustomed to an atmosphere of paranoid homophobia, as well as discrimination against women, under Pope Benedict. The proud and immediate rejection of anything and everything that did not fit in with the remaining conservative herd's Benedictine concept of church had become too self-evident. And now, we are experiencing a proper quantum leap in the current reigning atmosphere. Francis is leading this revolutionary change in tone. His warning, not to get hung up on details and particulars, such as homosexuality and abortion, can be seen as a criticism of his predecessor that could not have been more striking and incisive.

If Catholicism were only a feeling, this topic could be confidently left at this level of euphoria. However, the mild method of the Jesuits has always had the goal of making the issue more palatable and to thereby get it accepted. Catholicism is fundamentally constructed of a doctrine that very concretely determines the way of life and church politics. But Francis shows little nerve for change when it comes to this doctrine. When the discussion become concrete, the Pope dodges and evades, poses counter questions and sticks to ambiguous answers. What does it mean when Maria is seen more highly than the average bishop, but the concrete role of women remains essentially unchanged? How does it help homosexuals, when their existence, as human beings and believers, can be tolerated, but in contrast they aren't allowed to actually realize this assessment, as their self-fulfillment remains a 'sin', a 'social wound' in the belly of the church?

Nevertheless, one can clearly read the Jesuit Pope's position between the lines. When it comes to hard content, Francis prefers to stay a 'son of the church' and only offer traditional solutions. Again, the resemblance to Cardinal Acquaviva is stunning. The latter's 'suaviter in modo' stems from the work titled 'Curing the Illnesses of the Soul'. Francis indirectly takes this title up again by viewing society as a large battlefield, filled with injured souls. In this through and through anti-modern vision, the church becomes a 'field hospital'. The clerics take up the role of the nurses, who wait in the confessional for the regretting sinners, to heal them. This is also precisely the place that lately Pope Francis sees for those homosexuals, who sinned by living out their sexuality. If they feel real regret and target betterment, then that is the place, where they are offered the mercy of the church. Homosexuals can therefore be accepted as injured, regretting victims with bad conscience, who are in search for sympathy and compassion. The question remains whether Francis is aware that these wounds are very clearly a result of the church's demonization of homosexuality.

A field hospital doesn't only require friendly nurses, but also a doctor, who stout-heartedly grabs the scalpel. This will only become necessary when homosexuals self-consciously step up and demand equality. So, almost simultaneously with the pope's interview, the Vatican sent out a clear church political signal, in the person of Cardinal Coccopalmerio. During a conference at the Holy See, the cardinal let the public know that laws against homophobia in Europe should not be allowed. Homosexuality was objectively evil and people should be allowed to show this very clearly. Even Pope Francis asked the French regime to revoke the country's legalization of gay marriage.

And so, that quickly, the bitter truth and harsh realities behind the friendly curtains of the 'suaviter modo' come to light.