Time's Person of the Year has been lauded by many for what they interpret to be his more progressive approach to sexuality. However, according to The Telegraph, Pope Francis I openly encouraged Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta (pictured below) to condemn adoption of children by same-sex couples in his Christmas sermon once the Bishop shared his concern with His Holiness:
Bishop Scicluna met Pope Francis on December 12. The bishop later told the Times of Malta: “We discussed many aspects… and when I raised the issue that’s worrying me as a bishop [the right for gay couples to adopt] he encouraged me to speak out."
Indeed, the Pope was "shocked" to learn that Malta's proposed Civil Union bill allows gay adoption. And Bishop's Scicluna's controversial sermon seems to have been delivered at his prompting.
None of this should be surprising: back in Argentina, Cardinal Bergoglio roundly condemned gay adoption and said that gay marriage was diabolically inspired. But confusingly – and I still can't quite figure this out in my head – he did clearly back civil partnerships as the lesser of two evils. (When Archbishop Vincent Nichols appeared to do that, his critics in the Vatican were furious.)
Journalist James Bloodworth, in a new op-ed originally published on NewStatesman.com, remains doubtful that Francis is as liberal and progressive as some would like to believe and argues little has changed in terms of doctrine since Francis took the keys to the Holy See from Pope Benedict:
Pope Benedict was a PR disaster for the church. Yet under Francis little of substance has actually changed. The Catholic Church continues to vehemently discriminate against gay people and women, it’s simply sugar-coated its message with fashionable sound bites about inequality. And depressingly this has worked. Many otherwise erstwhile progressives have fallen into line faster than Danny Alexander at a cabinet meeting.
We should, however, reject the notion that someone who can rescind the Church’s stance on gay sex, and chooses not to do so, is a figure worthy of admiration. Nor, if he won’t countenance women priests, is there a reason to suppose the Pope has anything of note to say about poverty. Why waste precious time worrying about anything such a person thinks?
Aside from the fact that we still hold religious figures to a lower standard than secular ones, the fawning over Pope Francis demonstrates something profoundly depressing: in the struggle for a better world, women’s and LGBT rights are still not taken seriously.
You'll recall that earlier this year, Francis excommunicated an Australian priest who was a vocal advocate of ordination for women and gay marriage. However, as Time points out, the Priest in question was "already tagged for removal before Francis took office in March."