What is it about Francis and gays?
The LGBT lobby was delighted with his off-the-cuff pronouncement to a young gay man: ’Who am I to judge?’ And yet a book-length interview has now appeared in which Francis encourages vigilance in excluding openly gay candidates from ordination and roundly condemns gay activity among the clergy. Meanwhile Fr James Martin LBGTSJ continues to have Francis’s backing for his advocacy of gay rights, as witness his invitation to speak at the Dublin celebration of the family.
But then there are the accusations (by Archbishop Vigano and others) that the Pope was aware of the activities of ex-Cardinal McCarrick (which had been an open secret in the US for some time) and continued to give him full support. Then it emerged that Francis was elevating to the cardinalate a protégé of McCarrick, a man (Joseph Tobin) who has hit the press more than once for sharing his home with an Italian actor half his age, given to exposing his six-pack to photographers. You might call all these ‘confusing signals’.
Then there was the matter of the abrupt intervention in the affairs of the American Bishops’ Conference. Its Chair, Archbishop DiNardo, was opening the Conference when an intervention came from Rome forbidding the bishops even to discuss the proposals before them for dealing with the abuse crisis. That, said the missive, should be left until the conference of Chairs of Bishops’ Conferences convened for next February.
Considering Francis’s enthusiasm for ‘Synodality’ and for greater autonomy for local bishops’ conferences (emerging, as by Papal fiat, from the recent Synod on Youth) this was strange, to say the least. Considering these mixed messages, and recalling the way in which the final reports of these Roman Synods seem to have been written by Papal apparatchiks before the Synods had even met, a world-wide gathering of Chairmen of Episcopal Conferences seems an expensive way for the Holy Father to reveal what his mind really is.