In the days since the new Pope was elected, a fairly clear picture has emerged of the kind of guy Argentinian Cardinal Bergolio will be: he rides on buses, he’s pretty old, and he’s predictably conservative. So while we might not get the papal shoes and velvet cape of Ratzinger, we will continue to see peace and love doctrines like ‘abortion is murder’ and ‘gays are evil’ spurting from the Vatican.
While the media dubbed Benedict XVI ‘the Pope who will die soon so everyone can have some time to get over the Polish one before him’, Francis seems to be ‘the Pope from a poor country who gives a shit about poor people’.
The Sydney Morning Herald even ran the line that Bergolio’s attention to poverty and development issues is a distinction from “such First World concerns as gay marriage or women priests”.
The Pope shouldn’t win points for saying the Catholic Church could be doing more for poor people (like it’s a new fucking idea) when he’s also pushing the line that homosexuality is “intrinsically immoral”. The implication here is that we can chop up social issues into discrete little packages that have nothing to do with each other. These issues are all complex and intertwined; if the Pope or any political figure advocates a view that is harmful to a whole segment of the population, they are contributing in a substantive way to a culture or hatred, violence and inequality.
It’s no coincidence that young queer people are disproportionately represented in homelessness and mental illness statistics. You can’t push a socially conservative line on one issue and wash your hands of its broader implications. I’m not saying people need to engage in all social justice issues or none at all – clearly, there’s nothing wrong with having a focus. But there is something very wrong with the Pope actively making the world a worse place for one group of already disadvantaged people while wanting everyone to pat him on the back for giving a shit about another.
Think about condoms: yes, the Catholic Church pours huge amounts of money into development in places like Africa, but by decrying the use of contraceptives it facilitates the spread of HIV. This isn’t an issue of hypocrisy, it is one of delusion. The new guy in the silly robes might be a “Pope for the poor”, but without some radical change, he’s going to be a Pope actively making the world a worse place.
Follow Ben Riley on Twitter: @bencriley