Praise has abounded for the new tone Pope Francis set for the Catholic Church in his extensive interview published last week, but in terms of his actions, it doesn’t look like a lot has changed so far. In particular, one Australian priest has been both defrocked and excommunicated by the Vatican apparently for his support of LGBT equality and women priests. Father Greg Reynolds was not provided an explanation for being cut out of the Church, but he believes he knows why:
REYNOLDS: In times past excommunication was a huge thing, but today the hierarchy have lost such trust and respect. I’ve come to this position because I’ve followed my conscience on women’s ordination and gay marriage.
Francis has also kept in place Archbishop Gerhard Mueller as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In this role, Mueller has both worked against the liberal nuns in the U.S. that advocate for LGBT equality and managed the Church’s damage control over the sexual abuse of children.
These decisions are not inconsistent with Francis’ rhetoric. If anything, it’s telling that he refuses to answer the question of whether he approves of homosexuality, because there is no reason to believe that he does. It was only three years ago that he was describing marriage equality as “a scheme to destroy God’s plan,” suggesting that allowing same-sex couples to adopt is a form of discrimination against children. He may not care if priests are gay, but he certainly cares if they abide the anti-gay teachings of the Church. Indeed, Francis’ tact seems to be focusing on the issues more than the people, but this is a distinction without a difference; while his renewed emphasis on issues like poverty is laudable, discrimination against LGBT people isn’t any more tolerable just because it’s framed differently. Until Francis actually directs bishops across the world to spend less time, energy, and money campaigning against marriage equality and other issues important to same-sex families, any claims of change within the Church when it comes to homosexuality are premature.