The Pope respects civil unions. Will conservative Catholics listen?

Pope Francis has a history of controversial progressive statements. So, it’s no surprise that he voiced support for same-sex civil unions in a recent documentary — the first time a Pope has ever done so. He’s also reiterated his belief that gay people have a right to a family and a happy life. But how much of a cause for celebration is this? 

I know how frustrating it is to wait for the Church to change — I was raised in it. My parents, staunch progressives, taught my sister and I to reconcile our involvement in this organization by hoping that change was on its way and that we could encourage it. But after years and years, the 21st century still hadn’t caught up, and we switched to an Episcopalian church.

I struggle to believe that the Pope’s statement, nice as it is, will enact real change for LGBTQ+ Catholics. It seems that, as political divisions deepen around the globe, they’re also deepening in the Church. After all, who are the two most prominent Catholics in America? Arguably, they’re Joe Biden and Amy Coney Barrett, whose views on same-sex marriage couldn’t be more different. And I doubt that Barrett is reconsidering her beliefs because of the Pope. For those who claim religious justification for being anti-gay, it’s usually just a thin cover-up for deeper biases.

Additionally, Pope Francis still unequivocally believes that marriage is between a man and a woman. He’s not criticizing the official doctrine that homosexuality is an “intrinsically disordered” behavior. Yes, this 2,000 year-old institution of 1.2 billion members won’t change overnight. But the baby steps argument is getting old. What about the people who’ve already been hurt? A young woman from my old church recently committed suicide after recieving years of conversion therapy from a priest. For people like her, the Pope’s timid support of LGBTQ+ rights is too little, too late.

Claiming respect can’t do much when the underlying hateful teaching still needs to change. Of course people will try to “cure” homosexuality if it’s still considered a disorder. Catholics who want to keep hurting LGBTQ+ people still aren’t under any official obligation to stop. We must’ve learned by now that the “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach that Pope Francis clearly advocates isn’t working. You can’t make someone feel loved while hating an intrinsic part of them. Therefore, it’s time the Church started loving the “sin.”

Charlotte Smith  ’23 is from Boulder, CO.

Her major is English.