All posts for the month March, 2013

New Pope, new hope or same old story?

Published March 13, 2013 by Katy J Went

Twitter @pontifex “habemus papam franciscum” … but not certain about testiculos habet et bene pendentes, “He has testicles and they hang well”. Whether he has the orchises or avocados to change the Roman Catholic Church, or even the desire, is a far different matter from the alleged gender testing, James Bond style (Casino Royale), on a special chair with a hole, to confirm he is neither another Pope Joan nor a eunuch, intersex or third gender, a group of people the last Pope was firmly opposed to.

The more traditional announcement came 25 minutes earlier from the Papal balcony, “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum… habemus papam!” – “I announce to you a great joy… we have a pope!” Pope Francesco I, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, from Argentina.

I was hoping for a Brazilian so I could make jokes about his waxing regime. Still, an Argentinian, so now Britain could be at war with 1.2bn Catholics and the Vatican over the Falklands, who in a far more democratic process voted, well all bar 3 did, to remain British this week.

He is last time’s runner up to Ratzinger/Benedict, from Buenos Aires, and the first Jesuit, a 76yo of Italian parentage. He is the first from the developing world, outside of Europe, in a millennium. He is in favour of the simple-life, taking the bus to work and cooking his own meals. He sees poverty and simplicity as a form of spirituality and some in his native Argentina have called on him to campaign more for social justice, anti-poverty, rather than to just embrace it as a spiritual rule.

More hopeful was his statement in 2007, “We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least… The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”. Whether that will unlock some of the Vatican’s riches for redistribution.

He is no liberation theologian, another conservative, as evidenced by his traditional views on abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality. On the latter he has strongly opposed the pro-LGBT reforming agenda of the Argentinian government including same-sex marriage (2010) and the first country in the world to fully depathologise transsexuality and to fund without prejudice or psychiatric intervention gender reassignment transition (2012).

Argentina’s current and first elected female president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (known as CFK, so hope she wears a bullet proof vest!) has criticised Bergoglio, now Francis I, and the Catholic church’s opposition to her policies as evoking the tone of “medieval times and the Inquisition”. He weighed in against her forward looking policies saying that “adoption by gays and lesbians is a form of discrimination against children” and in a formal letter to Catholic monasteries, “Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

So, a giant international leap for catholic-kind but barely even a small step in the right direction for true equality and diversity across all the strands of sexual and gender identity, gays and lesbians, women and trans, despite his past attention to social inclusion of those on the margins of society.

So homopaleohistoria and homoerotophobia, same-old-story and same-sex-love fear.  New Pope, new hope, nope – same old story. Let’s see, do I have the patience? Many people have waited 2000 years for a church to fully embrace the equality and ethics of Jesus who welcomed sex workers, tax collectors, women, children, working class fishermen, rebels & revolutionaries (John the Baptist & Judas), ethnics (Samaritans, gentiles, Romans), lepers, eunuchs and more.