In a private meeting with Juan Carlos Cruz, Chilean survivor of clerical sex abuse, Pope Francis reportedly told the ‘gay-identified’ Cruz that ‘God made him gay’ and ‘that you have to be happy with who you are.’
Huh. Always a chance the Pope was misquoted. If not, I submit the following.
Pope Francis may have changed his views on what he terms ‘gender ideology;’ something he renounced in his last two encyclicals. ‘Gender ideology’ holds to a distinctly non-Christian understanding of humanity; it demands that we accept any number of gender configurations on the grounds that they are inborn, unchangeable, and normal – morally neutral. Telling another that ‘God made him gay’ is a pastoral application of ‘gender ideology,’ not a challenge of it. The good Pope didn’t think it through.
Pope Francis fails to grasp that sexual abuse actually damages a child’s sexual development. Recent studies show a strong corollary between adults who ‘gay-identify’ and their experience of sexual violation as kids. Instead of attributing Cruz’s sexual identity to God, Pope Francis should ask him pardon for contributing to his same-sex attraction through a priest’s perverse invasion of his childhood.
Maybe the Pope makes the mistake of compensating for the damage done by giving Cruz a pass. Letting go of reason, he assuages Cruz’s violation with a platitude like ‘you have to be happy with who you are.’
Jesus took a different approach with the woman caught in adultery. Fierce, and with wise compassion, Jesus first defended her from a system designed to scourge her, not unlike blame shifting mucky mucks in the Catholic hierarchy who Francis rightly exposed and disciplined. But Jesus, after every Pharisee dropped his stone, exhorted the woman ‘to leave her life of sin’ (John 8:11). He didn’t encourage her ‘to be happy’ with her adulterous tendencies in the hope that she might be further fractured by immorality.
Pope Francis gives a platitude to one who needs inspired, fatherly guidance. His kindness masks the cruelty of an ideology that confirms God’s children in a lie. I applaud him for stepping up efforts to cleanse the Church of abuse; if this reported exchange is true, I correct him for springing one trap only to set another for the most vulnerable.
Today’s freedom to be whatever one thinks (s)he is, gender-wise, sheds new light on the question of homosexuality and change. If Kevin can wear a dress, use a woman’s restroom, and legally damage another for not referring to him as Karen, then a Christian’s commitment to leave behind an identity based on his or her same-sex attraction while aspiring to love a member of the opposite gender seems positively sane. Or at least possible, and at best worthy of the respect we accord all manner of gender-bending.
It also sheds light on the authority of the mind and will in determining the self we want to be. And perhaps should cause us to question the assumption that some people are just immutably, unquestionably ‘gay’.
A writer for the New York Times says it best: ‘When Everyone Can Be Queer, Is Anyone?’ (Jenna Worthen, NYT Magazine, July 12, 2016). She marvels: ‘The speed with which modern society has adapted to accommodate the world’s vast spectrum of gender and sexual identities may be the most important cultural metamorphosis of our time. Facebook, which can be seen as a kind of social census, now offers nearly 60 different gender options…Plainly we are in the midst of a profoundly exhilarating revolution.’
This translates into college students having to account for their evolving gender status. Each year, a friend’s daughter at a large state university has to declare her gender status afresh. After all, who she was as a freshman, he/zee/undecided may not be as a sophomore.
Dr. Lisa Diamond has turned homosexual research on its ear by charting the ‘sexual fluidity’ of a group of 16-23 year-old-women over the course of a decade; she found that about a third of these ‘lesbian-identified’ women changed their identity status several times over that time, and preferred to think of themselves as open to both genders.
We dignify that freedom but may well demonize one who refuses to construct a ‘gay self’ and chooses instead to love an opposite sex partner. I recall Oprah Winfrey’s horrified look when someone on her show testified to no longer being ‘gay’, now happily married. ‘But you were born that way!’ she insisted. At a recent large Catholic gathering, a ‘gay-identified’ hipster dissed my claim to change with a ‘we know that does not happen, right?’
Jenna Worthen would disagree, citing ‘old notions of static sexual identities’ as ‘austere and reductive.’ Maybe ‘Born that Way’ is another ceiling we need to shatter in order to grant all persons the freedom to live out what makes them thrive. Lady Gaga, watch out.