Much ado is being made about a comment by Pope Francis yesterday in which he stated that he would not negatively judge celibate gay priests. Many news reports about the pope's remarks feature headlines like "Pope Francis on Gays: Who Am I To Judge Them?," and pundits and commentators are breathlessly asking whether Francis's words signal a "sea change" in the way the Catholic Church views gays and lesbians. If one only skimmed the headlines, one could be forgiven for thinking something monumental was happening at the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church leadership.
Of course, nothing of the sort is actually taking place. The pope still fully believes and professes what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality: that same-sex sexual acts are "acts of grave depravity," "intrinsically disordered," and "contrary to the natural law."
While it's too early to tell whether Francis's nice-sounding words indicate a shift in style, absolutely nothing has changed in terms of substance. The official Roman Catholic Church remains a deeply homophobic institution.
However, Pope Francis's comments have distracted many people from the harsh reality of the Catholic Church's ongoing crusade against LGBT people and our civil rights. I certainly hope this is a temporary phenomenon, as the Catholic hierarchy remains one of the primary obstacles on the road to full equality.
Perhaps nowhere is this more vividly illustrated than an official letter the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent earlier this month to members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. In it, the bishops state their opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), making perfectly clear that their anti-gay efforts extend far beyond just the obstruction of equal marriage rights.
Joint Letter on Enda Senate Help 2013-07-09 1
That's right: America's Catholic bishops oppose legislation that would make it a crime to discriminate in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (they even put the latter in scare quotes: "'gender identity'"). Thankfully, members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee ignored the bishops and passed ENDA out of committee on July 10.
Does this look like a church whose leaders have relented one bit in their war against our rights? It sure doesn't to me.
Pope Francis said some nice words yesterday about gay priests, but don't let the breathless media hype and uncritical applause generated by his remarks distract you from the harsh reality. By opposing ENDA, the American Catholic bishops made it perfectly clear that institutional Catholic homophobia is still alive, doing very well, and not going anywhere.
h/t: the ever-vigilant Jeremy Hooper