While speaking on the importance of his faith – notably, in the midst of tragedy – Vice President Joe Biden said something to new Late Show host Stephen Colbert last week that made me feel both empathetic and envious.
“All of the good things that have happened have happened around the culture of my religion and the theology of my religion,” Biden explained.
Like Biden and Colbert, I was raised Catholic and, for many years, I shared a similar stance on the faith. It was there when I felt triumphant and when I felt utterly terrible (which happened far more than any child should experience). I was so devout that I was even approached for the priesthood.
At that same time I was deep enough in the faith that a priest thought I’d make a good colleague, I was also in deep denial of my homosexuality. I never seriously considered the priesthood, but the offer made me realize how the church I found comfort in was also making it extremely difficult for me to live a life that didn’t involve ample amounts of guilt.
So, I left, which is not an uncommon choice among US adults. A recent Pew Research Center study shows that among all American adults who were raised Catholic, 52% have left the church at some point in their lives. The study goes on to say that of these, about a fifth find their way back. But most, like me, never return to the faith. That’s because if, unlike Colbert and Biden, you’re not a straight, white, cisgender man, Catholic culture and theology isn’t speaking to you.
Since Pope Francis’s election in 2013, and more so as his impending US visit approaches, there has been much discussion as to whether or not he can reel the likes of me back into the fold with what some have deemed the “Pope Francis Effect.” A purported kindler, gentler and modern pope. In a recent interview with Father Thomas Rosica, media attaché to the Holy See Press Office and CEO of the Toronto-based Salt and Light Television, Colbert himself said he hopes that those who had long abandoned their faith will return. Colbert, who taught catechism classes, referred to Pope Francis as “Pope Hope.”
There is indeed a lot for disaffected liberals and minorities to like about Pope Francis. I appreciate him tackling issues such as the simplifying annulments, fighting climate change and advocating for the poor. Even so, when it comes to LGBT issues and reproductive rights, talk is focused more on tolerance than actual acceptance. It was powerful to hear Pope Francis declare, “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” And the fact that he met with LGBT activists is important. Nonetheless, a day after a gay pride march in Rome back in June, Pope Francis stressed the importance of children having heterosexual parents.
Earlier this month, the Vatican reportedly told a Spanish bishop that transgender people cannot be godparents, with their doctrinal arm replying that trans folks “publicly show an attitude contrary to the moral requirement to resolve one’s sexual identity problem according to the truth of one’s sex.”
Read the rest at The Guardian.