This week we heard that Pope Francis expressed his pastoral love for a Chilean sex abuse victim who is gay. The fellow said that the Pope told him, “God made you like this and loves you like this and I don’t care. The pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are.” This has electrified a segment of LGBT Christianity who think of it as a reversal of the Roman Catholic Church’s stand.
“God made you the way you are.” Will this declaration resonate and become the mantra that pulses with the heartbeat of the church? Will the theologians, those doctors of things divine, find the will to affirm that “Christ redeems you and loves you the way you are”? Then we shall have the freedom to do great and loving things, for that is what we are made for.
Almost those very words liberated me a couple of decades ago, after four decades of hearing nothing really accurate or helpful from the church or its scholars. “God made you like THIS” and not like some other people that are not like this. THIS will not change. Some things are subject to change, but not THIS. The moment I heard that liberating affirmation, I began to try to find out what THIS is and gave up years of fruitless efforts to be otherwise. That was the moment I embarked on becoming happy with “who I am”.
I hope the guy from Chile found the sort of exoneration I did.
“God loves you like this and I … love you like this. You have to be happy with who you are.” I hope this expression from Pope Francis is accurate and we will not be hearing a rebuttal. I hope this fatherly wish will not be obscured behind walls of interpretation that mean he did not mean to mean it so simply. Alas, just one day later we heard that the pope instructed bishops to be on the lookout for gay guys applying to enter seminaries, and if there is any suspicion at all, to keep them out.
The church has more than one voice, even if the voice is the Pope’s. The church always has and always will have collective thoughts about this, as well as dissenting opinions. We have not heard the last of this. Angry objectors are biding their time.
But on THIS matter, time’s up. The time has come for the church to shift.
The shift will not be into universal consensus, which we are led to believe would be a complete reversal of the church’s previous consensus that sodomy is sin, the worst sin of all, the abomination that is so bad it’s name cannot be spoken and that needs to be cut from the body with a red-hot knife so the hideous tumor can be cast aside and the wound be cauterized. There always was a minority in the church who opposed the inquisition and who knew that being made like THIS was neither God’s mistake nor ours. The shift we seek is toward inclusive love, just enough, for now, to tip the balance. These numbers are rising, and may now include one more relieved soul from Chile.
[Credit for this 2013 cartoon goes to Angelo Lopez of the Philippines.]
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.