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What does Pope Benedict’s resignation mean for LGBT people?

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Vatican announced that Pope Benedict will resign due to age and health concerns. This is the first papal resignation in 600 years. The Vatican has said that Benedict will carry out his duties until February 28, with a new pope likely to be elected around Easter, which is March 31 this year, but the timeline for the selection of a new pope is still uncertain.

As this story is still breaking, most of the news will be focused on the details of the resignation. However, news like this tends to make people wonder what sort of change a transition like this might mean in the Roman Catholic Church. LGBT people and allies – many of whom are Catholic – have a particular interest in seeing what direction the church is heading.

The Roman Catholic Church hierarchy has long been an opponent to LGBT equality. Even before Pope Benedict came on the scene, the Vatican was employing the phrase “intrinsically disordered” to refer to LGBT people. In the 2012 election, Roman Catholic bishops led the opposition to marriage equality in Minnesota, Maryland, Washington, and Maine, pouring energy and money into campaigns that ultimately ended in defeat for the anti-gay coalitions, including the bishops.

Is it likely that the cardinals will choose a pro-LGBT pope? Everything is possible, but this seems highly unlikely. The hierarchy tends to reward and promote those who have been particularly successful at opposing LGBT equality. That means that the cardinals, who elect the pope, are more likely to choose someone who carries the same anti-LGBT attitudes and has a history of LGBT oppression.

But, this transitional moment does carry with it a significant opportunity.

It has become increasingly clear that the Roman Catholic leadership has been increasingly out of step with everyday Roman Catholic people on the issue of LGBT equality. According to a 2011 Public Religion Research Institute report:

  • Nearly three-quarters of Catholics favor relationship recognition for same-sex couples, with 43% supporting marriage equality and another 31% supporting civil unions.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Catholics favor laws that would protect gay and lesbian people against discrimination in the workplace
  • 6-in-10 (60%) Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.
  • Only about 1-in-4 (27%) Catholics who attend church services regularly say their clergy speak about the issue of gay and lesbian people, but nearly two-thirds (63%) of this group say the messages they hear are negative.
  • Compared to other religious groups, Catholics are significantly more likely to give their church poor marks for how it is handling the issue of LGBT people.
  • By a nearly 70%, Catholics overwhelmingly reject the idea that sexual orientation can be changed.
  • A majority of Catholics (56%) believe that sexual relations between two adults of the same gender is not a sin.

There are other Catholic denominations that have taken a more LGBT-inclusive stance, including the North American Old Catholic Church, which recently ordained its first transgender priest.

Likewise, a variety of LGBT Catholic organizations continue to provide pastoral care for LGBT people and their allies, change the hierarchy’s attitude toward LGBT people, and send an LGBT-affirming Catholic voice.

According to the blog for New Ways Ministry:

We are praying, too, for LGBT Catholics and their families and friends, whose lives were made more difficult living under Benedict’s reign both as pontiff and as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), where he served previously.  For the last three decades, Benedict has been one of the main architects of the Vatican’s policies against LGBT people. New Ways Ministry directly experienced those harsh policies several times over the years…Fortunately, we have survived the many attempts by the Vatican to end our ministry, and, thanks to the support of so many Catholics, we have emerged stronger for it.

Dignity USA released a statement to comment on Benediction resignation:

As members of the Church who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, as well as family members and allies, we call on the Cardinals and the new Pope to enter into a true dialogue with our community. We call for an end to statements that inflict harm on already marginalized people, depict us as less than fully human, and lend credence to those seeking to justify discrimination. We call on our Church not only to embrace but to champion the dignity and equality of all humans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Equally Blessed, a coalition of LGBT Catholic organizations, released the following statement:

With the pope’s impending resignation, the church has an opportunity to turn away from his oppressive policies toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, and their families and friends, and develop a new understanding of the ways in which God is at work in the lives of faithful and loving people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We pray for a pope who is willing to listen to and learn from all of God’s people. We pray for a pope who will realize that in promoting discrimination against LGBT people, the church inflicts pain on marginalized people, alienates the faithful and lends moral credibility to reactionary political movements across the globe.

Change from the Roman Catholic Church is not likely to come from the top, but from the everyday Catholics who worship, pray, tithe, and volunteer their time and effort.

As everyday Catholics continue to speak out about LGBT equality, that voice has the opportunity to overshadow the anti-gay messages that come from the hierarchy.

As was demonstrated by the 2012 election, in which Catholics voted for equality, everyday people have the power to make a real difference. Now is the time to speak up for long-held values of fairness, grace, compassion, and equality in the eyes of God.

Opinions and advice expressed in our Views & Voices columns represent the author's own views and not necessarily those of LGBTQ Nation. We welcome opposing views and diverse perspectives. To submit a article, column or video, contact us here. Due to the volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee publication.

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24 more reader comments:

  1. iim not too sure why we would actually care. the more we show them that their decisions don’t affect us the quicker they become irrelevant.

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:02pm
  2. It doesn’t mean crap unfortunately. No pope is going to accept homosexuality or marriage equality. Sad, since Jesus loved everyone

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:05pm
  3. Luckily faith in the Catholic Church dwindles more and more each year.

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:06pm
  4. It could not be any worse… The man should return to his humble beginnings of a Nazi…

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:08pm
  5. What does it mean for LGBT people? Absolutely nothing. They’re going to elect someone from the “good ole’ boys” network and it will be more of the same.

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:12pm
  6. This is great news!!!!! It can’t possibly get any worse than it presently is! Glad to see him go…………….

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:12pm
  7. One less hateful person to have to deal

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:13pm
  8. who cares what he thinks!! most likely fucking some boy in the church

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:14pm
  9. This evil man brought so much negative publicity down upon the cathlic church when he spoke of Love and acceptance and hate for the gays in the same breath. Then when he praised the Ugandan parliment for concidering the “Kill the gays” bill, amungst other things. This pope has done some damage to the catholic church and he knows it.

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:18pm
  10. could be an even older dude and catholics need lighten up if they want to keep people coming to church. My gosh,isnt this 2013?!

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:19pm
  11. End this nonsense now, this is not the Dark Ages No More “POPES” from the “Stone Age”

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:24pm
  12. I doubt that the next pope would be gay friendly, but i don’t care what the pope says, i am not a Catholic and i never intend on going back to being a Catholic.

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:31pm
  13. Ding Dong! POPE DRIVEN FROM VATICAN! For INSIDER INFO about PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE in the Church, read this tragic-comedy EYEWITNESS BOOK written by a deeply established Gay Author educated for 11 years at the Pope’s Pontifical College! CNN SAYS: “ONE OF THE 100 BOOKS YOU SHOULD BE READING! Paperback & KINDLE.

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:34pm
  14. he looks like he will soon regenerate into a new form

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:35pm
  15. Anytime you get rid of a Nazi the world is a better place.

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:40pm
  16. Someone just as bad (well, maybe not a Nazi) will replace him. The Church is not going to change.

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:51pm
  17. It means no change whatsoever. The same cardinals that elected him will elect the next pope.

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:54pm
  18. There’s little likelihood of change. John Paul and Benedict have packed the college of cardinals and the rest of the hierarchy with ultra-conservatives, so the chances of a reformer being chosen are extremely slim.

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 2:06pm
  19. won’t matter.. the next will be just as creepy as all who came b4 him

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 2:10pm
  20. I was told to piss of the LGBT people so I’m just gonna do what i can. :) First on this subject just no leadership for the anti gay folks, FOR NOW! and second why was this even thought up from a gay person, your gay! go party, make parades, of what ever the Hell you people do to piss people off, just saying. let catholic people worry about and you stay gay! :) love this subject

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 2:26pm
  21. Not a damn thing!

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 2:28pm
  22. probably retiring to have a bit more free time with the boyfriend.

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 2:36pm
  23. First of all, good riddance. No pope has waged a more aggressive campaign, worldwide, against the happiness, public safety, dignity and equal protection under the law of gay people than this putz. His successor is likely to be just as bad.

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 2:40pm
  24. It is sad that religious leaders fail to comprehend psychology, human sexuality, science, and the concept that everyone in the order is not a saint. Even clergy members are fallible human beings. They are so lost in the business end of religion and are ignorant when it comes to common sense. This Pope is a shining example of all of the above. His pool was too muddy from the start. He should never have been considered for such a position. One good thing about him, I think he realizes it. Let’s hope and pray they seriously bring something better to the table on this next selection. Even though I am not Catholic and find it all a little redundant, the pope plays a significant role in the advancement of this world and our culture.

    Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 at 3:43pm