For some time, Pope Francis has been gathering accolades for his progressive views on a variety of issues.
I’m talking radical stances, like:
- Evolution is real (which many don’t realize is actually accepted by the Church)
- It’s wrong to rape children
- Babies should be fed when they’re hungry, even if that’s in church
- Don’t hate gay people
- The science is clear on climate change
- Reducing our fellow man to poverty and starvation is wrong
Now, to be fair, some of these are actually pretty progressive — when coming from a pope. And, while that’s a pretty damning indictment of the religion, credit where credit is due: the Vicar of Rome has taken some far more charitable and reality-based views than his predecessors. Pragmatically speaking, these are steps (maybe baby steps) in the right direction; the Catholic Church is a highly influential organization that’s not going anywhere soon — and so the more factual and less harmful its outlook, the better off a lot of people’s lives are going to be.
But, in recognizing that, let’s not forget one thing: Pope Francis is still head of the Catholic Church, and he still maintains and upholds the beliefs of that church. Indeed, this past week or so, he seems rather intent on reminding people of that very fact. First, he informed us that free speech stops where religious people’s feelings start.
And now, in remarks made during his trip to the Philippines, for all those nice sentiments about not judging LGBT folks, when it comes to same-sex marriages, he still seems pretty judge-y.
At a rally for families in the country’s capital of Manila, the popular pontiff spoke of an “ideological colonization that we have to be careful about that is trying to destroy the family,” the pope said through a translator. Many people understood his remarks as a reference to same-sex marriage.
“The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life,” Francis said at a Mass in Manila. “These realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces, which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation.”
Is this surprising? No. Not any more than his conservative positions on abortion and assisted suicide. Because, at the end of the day, Pope Francis heads a religious organization that has spent hundreds and hundreds of years entrenched in and promoting regressive, harmful theology.
It is progress that he is softening the tone — and perhaps his approach — in some of these areas. But as long as the beliefs at the root of these issues (homosexuality is a sin, etc.) remain, the problems will also remain. A more inclusive tone is nice, but it merely addresses a symptom of the problem.