As a recovering Catholic, I have been waiting a long time for the Vatican to show the grace and love that Jesus preached, instead of the lavish, golden, and cold face it has shown to the world. The church has arguably failed to live up to its ideals for thousands of years, but as I grew from a naive, hopeful Catholic student into the person I am today, I started seeing the Vatican for what it is. When the papal conclave decided on the Jesuit Argentinian Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, however, I perked up and felt hopeful about the future of the Catholic Church for the first time in years. Blessed enough to have experienced a Jesuit education, and passionate as I am about issues in Central and South America, I was thrilled about the new pope.
He didn’t disappoint. When asked why he chose the name Francis, he replied, “For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation.” He also vowed to take “decisive action” against sex abuse within the church, to rekindle the church’s relationship with science, support sainthood of Oscar Romero, a Salvadorian bishop who is considered a martyr throughout Latin America, and even shunned the luxurious papal apartment offered by the Vatican. The thing that caught me off guard the most, however, was when the new pope broke with tradition and held the traditional Holy Thursday washing-of-the-feet ceremony at a youth detention center, washing and kissing the feet not only of the young male detainees, but the female and Muslim detainees as well.
So when news came on Monday that a Brazilian priest was being excommunicated for resigning in opposition to the church’s stance on homosexuality, of course I was disheartened. As a straight ally and a female, my hope of change had been renewed with Pope Francis’ promise of working for the poor, despite the church’s stance on homosexuality and its refusal to even entertain the idea of female priests. Of course, change is slow and we should not allow these instances to deter us from continuing to work for change, but it is still sobering and frustrating when they happen.
In a video posted to YouTube, Father Roberto Francisco Daniel explained why he had resigned: “We should simply be considered as gendered beings and not as homosexuals or bisexuals since love can spring at all these levels ... For me it has become impossible to live the Gospel in an institution where freedom of thought and freedom of expression are not respected.” This hits home for me as a Jesuit-educated woman, so I hope it also rings true for Pope Francis, who has already shown his devotion to bringing more love, simplicity, understanding, and compassion back to the Vatican. If we are called to be Christ-like, as Father Daniel has shown his Christ-like compassion and love for the marginalized, then the Catholic Church must work to be more accepting of all its members.