Vatican City– Last week, when the world’s Roman Catholic cardinals huddled in a secretive conclave to nominate the next Pope, many minority groups (including women’s and gay rights groups) held out hope the new leader would usher in an olive branch of friendship and acceptance to those who have been singled out by the Vatican’s staunch conservative positions. When news broke of the surprising selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as the new Pontiff, congratulations and cheers rang out from throughout the world. But reaction from the LGBTQ community was pointedly subdued. Cardinal Bergoglio had already established a history of being on the opposing end of various gay rights-initiatives in Argentina, and his selection to lead one of the world’s largest religions would no doubt continue the anti-gay rhetoric which has become much too common place in the halls of Vatican City.
During Argentina’s same-sex marriage and gay adoption debates of 2010, Cardinal Bergoglio made the following inflammatory statement:
In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family…At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts. Let’s not be naive: This is not a simple political fight; it is a destructive proposal to God’s plan.
The harsh declaration from the Buenos Aires cardinal drew swift condemnation from various Civil Rights leaders within Argentina and on July 21st, 2010, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner signed the new legislation which legalized same-sex marriage and gay adoption in South America’s second largest country. Although the debate on same-sex marriage in Argentina was significantly divisive, many political observers agreed Cardinal Bergoglio’s harsh views towards the LGBT community largely tipped the scale in favor of marriage equality and adoption.
Now as the world welcomes the former cardinal of Argentina as the new face of the more than 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, it remains to be seen whether Pope Francis I (the name chosen by Bergoglio) will ultimately deliver changes to the Vatican in regards to social issues, but many people are not optimistic. “I think he will continue to be more of the same for the Catholic Church. Severely conservative, and alienating to those of us that are considered different,” declared Suzanne Claire, an LGBT activist from San Diego, who was raised Catholic. “I’m still hopeful for changes though. Heck, what’s wrong with women priests? I won’t lose sleep over it though.” An all too common view that is shared by many within the gay community.