Pope Francis addresses hot button issues; gay marriage

Jennifer Baron, Staff Writer

In the time from Feb. 11, 2013 to Mar. 13, 2013, members of the Roman Catholic Church all around the world waited for white smoke to rise out of the Vatican in Rome, which would mean that a new pope had been elected.

After a month long process Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected the 266th pope, becoming Pope Francis, and formally taking the place of Pope Benedict XVI.

In his short time as the pope, Pope Francis has proved that he is very different from his predecessors. For example, he believes that the Church’s priority is service to the poor, he reaches out to atheists, he speaks out against clericalism, and he does not live the lavish lifestyle that is at his disposal, just to name a few. He is even referred to as “the peoples pope” because of his efforts to connect with everyone, not just his congregation.

Perhaps one of the most hot-button issues Pope Francis has addressed is gay rights, gay marriage, and divorce in the Catholic Church.

On Oct. 20, a synod concluded at the Vatican. The synod, which is a formal meeting of church leaders who are in charge of making decisions and laws related to the church, may have marked the first step in a very long process.

The purpose of the synod was to have the participants speak their minds on issues dealing with family. The topic of gay-marriage was never intended to be discussed; that is until a conservative Cardinal read the mid-Synod report that suggested welcoming members of the gay community. Three days later, the Vatican added the heading “Providing for homosexual persons” to their report.

There were three paragraphs by the end of the synod that did not pass into the final document. The paragraph that conveyed welcome toward gays came up four votes short of what was needed for it to pass. Two paragraphs about divorced and remarried Catholics also did not make it into the document because it failed to pass by an even larger margin. This means that the Catholic Church is more readily accepting of gay people than they are of divorced people.

Many Catholics are up in arms about what the pope is trying to do, while others think it’s about time something like this happens. Pastor Dan Nichols at the Restored Church in Wilkes-Barre gave his input on the religion versus homosexuality debate throughout his sermon series, which dealt with inviting and welcoming the area’s LGBT community.

In one of his sermon’s, titled Disagreement ≠ Hatred, Nichols said “the leadership of Restored Church does believe that the Bible teaches God’s original design for human sexuality is between a man and a woman in the covenant relationship of marriage,” but his goal is for everyone to love one another and be able to form relationships and friendships despite the varying viewpoints.

While Nichols disagrees with gay marriage, he does not believe it should lead to the hatred that he sees some Christians projecting onto the LGBT community. For example, he expressed, “The Bible teaches that pride, arrogance, and bigotry are the most heinous, horrible sins known to man. Pride, arrogance, and bigotry come from our enemy Satan, and they are the fullest extent of rebellion against God. Sadly, many who call themselves followers of Jesus are some of the most proud, arrogant, and bigoted people in America today…It breaks my heart to see people who claim to be Christians make a name for themselves through hatred and homophobia.”

Nichols also acknowledged that both sides of this argument are at fault here. Those who believe in God’s original design of marriage between a man and a woman have no right to be bigoted and homophobic, but on the other side, those who believe in a homosexuality have no right to bigoted and heterophobic.

On our own campus, Dr. Helen Davis did have some input on the topic. Davis is an Associate Professor in the English Department and the faculty advisor for the Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA). Davis said she is “excited about the conversation, but upset about the backtrack. Although Davis is not a Catholic, she appreciates a “Pope who cares about moving forward.

Even though the future of how gay marriage is perceived in the church is uncertain, what is certain is that Pope Francis is creating an entirely new church and will continue to move forward and try to make a difference.

Pastor Dan Nichols said it best in his sermon by asking the question “Gay and straight, liberal and conservative, activist and evangelist—we could stand together in our difference and in our respect. How much better would our world be if more could do the same?”