On Wednesday in Rome, Pope Francis expressed his support anti-gay measures to a group of worshipers from Slovakia, whose country is holding a referendum on Saturday. One of the ballot questions asks voters whether the country should maintain its ban same-sex marriage, while another asks whether adoption by same-sex couples should be prohibited. Speaking in a less blatant dialect of homophobia, Francis said,
“I greet the pilgrims from Slovakia and, through them, I wish to express my appreciation to the entire Slovak church, encouraging everyone to continue their efforts in defense of the family, the vital cell of society."
Though his language is softer than the unhinged rantings of his frothy-mouthed homophobic brethren, Francis' words carry far more weight as the head of the world's largest religious institution, and this makes them exponentially more damaging. The idea that banning gay marriage and adoption represents a "defense of the family" is downright repulsive, implying as it does that gay people are a menace that threaten the very foundation of society.
If there is a silver lining in this latest display of anti-gay bigotry by the pontiff, it's that it should now remove all doubt as to where he stands on the gay rights. Those of us who have actually been paying attention to this papacy since his inauguration have been unmoved by his kinder, gentler homophobia, which has led his dupes to conclude that he's something of a reformer on this matter when in fact he's business as usual.
Social liberals' love affair with Francis began early in his papacy when he was asked about the possible existence of gay clergy in the church. He declared, "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" The rhetorical question spawned a thousand misguided blog posts and a million tweets from people who wanted so badly to believe they finally had a comrade-in-gay-arms at the traditionally anti-gay Vatican. But his words in no way represented a fundamental change in the thinking of an institution that has long taught that one should hate the sin but love the sinner, and that homosexuality isn't wicked in and of itself, but that homosexual acts are.
More recently, Francis garnered additional praise from liberals during last year's Vatican synod on the family, in which a couple of hundred old men discussed issues such as homosexuality, divorce, and birth control. A draft report release during the early part of the two week gathering sent many into another pro-Francis frenzy because the report appeared to slightly soften its anti-gay positions. It was called “extraordinary,” “revolutionary,” a "shift," a “bombshell,” and an “earthquake” coming from the Francis-helmed Church.
In the end, however, the synod failed to agree on anything pertaining to welcoming gays into the Church. A month later, Francis delivered the opening remarks at an anti-gay conference -- a development that went largely ignored by his pro-gay defenders.
But there can be no more praise and no more defenses of Pope Francis when it comes to gay rights, especially after his latest comments. While there are reasons to like this pope and prefer him to his much maligned predecessor, he is and has always been a homophobe and therefore a hindrance to the cause of gay equality.