Isolation: that is how I would describe the feeling I and many other queer people have about the Church and many other religious groups. Feeling as if we are being left out, ignored, if not much worse. For many years now queer rights activists, as well as everyday individuals, have urged the Catholic Church to take a proactive stance upon queer rights. As of October 2nd, that has changed, slightly. This comes nearly two years after an official for Pope Francis declared that the blessing of same-sex couples “were not permitted,” he has since been removed from his position. However, in 2023, Pope Francis has spoken out against the criminalization of LGBTQ+ people, and has spoken for inclusivity in the church. While the Pope’s message was not all encompassing, nor does it immediately fix all the issues that the Church has caused for queer people, it is a start.
The Pope’s message, while monumental, was not a statement for full support. It declared that the Church should, not must, bless same-sex marriages on a “case-by-case” basis. While same-sex marriage has been legal in large number of countries for at least a few years now, under the guides of the Catholic Church, they are not recongised by God and the Church. Bishop John Stowe of the Catholic Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky stated to the Time Magazine, that it is counterintuitive to alienate people while trying to practise the faith in the modern day. In recent years, attendance to Catholic mass has decreased the most, to an average of less than 30% of adults stating that they’ve been to a service in the past week. Coinciding with the rise in the LGBTQ+ population is a rise in violence towards those in the community, creating a void of welcoming places for queer people. According to Stonewall, a multinational organisation for LGBTQ+ rights, 64% of LGBTQ+ people in the UK have experienced violence or abuse due to their identity. If the most powerful voice in one of the most influential religions and organisations in the world speaks in favour of LGBTQ+ people, those who feel the urge to use hate and manipulate biblical scripture for malicious reasons would feel less inclined to do so. World wide, the issue of hate crimes and bias due to outdated and often disputed texts have led to an immeasurable amount of deaths, injuries, and trauma.
Recently, Pope Francis has stated that transgender people are allowed to be baptised and are allowed to be made godparents. After Bishop José Negri of Brazil wrote to the Church’s Discastery of the Doctrine of the Faith (the oldest of the departments in the Roman Catholic Government, originally used to protect the Church from heresy, it is now responsible for defending the Catholic doctrine) with six questions on LGBTQ+ people and their rights in the Catholic Church. The papacy responded stating that trans-people are allowed to both be baptised, even if they choose to go through hormonal therapy, as well as become a godparent. Both of those are milestone judgments made by the papacy These steps forwards are no way near the benchmark for what queer people need and deserve, there needs to be a lot more done than allowing people within the LGBTQ+ community to get baptised, become godparents, and get married, there needs to be true equality and to be seen as equal members of the community. There seems to be a lot of baby steps being made, while we need jumps and leaps. For the past few generations, as more and more queer people have begun to live more openly and freely, the Catholic Church, among other religious groups, have all but openly supported the violent and detrimental oppression of the queer community. While in the past few years or so many governments have done a lot to increase queer equality, including but not limited to, ability to marry, adopt, and put under a protected class, the Catholic Church has sat ideally by, watching as the world evolves and adapts, as they stick to the same protocol and rules as they did during the Council of Trent.
Equality and reform is not something the Catholic Church is famous for, given that they are normally decades, if not centuries, behind most social and political movements. For example, they have yet to allow women to join the ranks of the clergy, with Pope Francis clarifying the roles in which women are allowed in the Church, barring them from priesthood, let alone those of Bishop and Cardinals. However, in recent years, in the age of social media and instantaneous change, the Church is beginning to change, even in the slightest of ways. Eventually, hopefully, the Church clergy will one day look like those that they represent and lead. But for now, we all are stuck on the sidelines, waiting for more than words, waiting for actions that very well may change the course of history.
By Ian Ziegler (He/Him)