scorecardresearch Skip to main content

The pope just dragged the Catholic Church into the 20th century. Wake me when he gets to the 21st

Pope Francis' comments in a new documentary that gay people should be allowed to have recognized relationships is being hailed as some kind of milestone. Frankly, it’s the least he could say.

Pope Francis in January 2019.Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

It’s pretty funny to watch the hullabaloo over Pope Francis saying that gay folks are, like, you know, regular people who should be allowed to live together in recognized relationships.

Wow.

The pope has single-handedly dragged the Catholic Church into the 20th century.

Wake me up when he gets to the 21st.

Of course, almost as soon as news of the pope’s perfectly reasonable if belated comments in a documentary called “Francesco” became public, the Roman Catholic bishop of Providence — the utterly ridiculous and predictably obtuse Tom Tobin — weighed in with a homophobic screed.

The guy can’t help himself. I could quote extensively from his sanctimonious statement about how gay people getting hitched is terrible and, following his logic, will result in them burning in eternal damnation. But I only have 670 words, so I’ll just quote from and limit my remarks to his claim that such relationships are “objectively immoral.”

Despite having the benefit of a substantial education, the bishop doesn’t appreciate the difference between the terms objective and subjective. Having a problem with gay people loving each other and having sexual relationships is subjectively immoral only to an increasingly shrinking group of troglodytes like Tobin. What is objectively immoral is bishops like him protecting priests who rape children.

Advertisement



(As a side note, presuming that the caped crusaders at the Catholic Action League are at this very moment composing yet another letter complaining that I criticize Bishop Tobin too often, as a public service, I’ll try to save them a stamp: If the bishop stops saying stupid, bigoted things, I’ll stop writing about him. Deal?)

As a baptized Catholic, I have always believed gay people have the natural right to be married and be as miserable as the rest of us. (Just kidding, honey!)

Advertisement



But, seriously, the Catholic Church’s centuries-old obsession with the sexual habits of ordinary people, as opposed to its own abusive priests, is bewildering. Its refusal to countenance married or female priests is antiquated. Its hemorrhaging of church-going members in countries where people aren’t desperately poor is entirely predictable.

That said, let’s keep things in perspective. Many priests and nuns do much good work, and Tobin represents an increasingly dwindling type of Catholic. His archaic, antigay rhetoric is not endorsed by most.

If you go to Sunday Mass at St. Cecilia’s in the Back Bay, you’ll find all sorts of people and, compared to other parishes, a disproportionate number of gay folks. The pastor, Father John Unni, is the antithesis of the judgmental bishop of Providence, welcoming everyone, no matter who they are or who they love, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who, it should be noted, always sided with the shunned and marginalized.

Mostly lost in the shuffle of the pope’s words about recognizing the legitimacy and humanity of gay couples are his words about something just as important: the Trump administration’s inhumane separation of families at the Mexican border.

The pope’s condemnation of the practice, in the same week it became known that the US government can’t find the parents of some 545 kids, couldn’t have been more timely.

The Trump administration implemented a zero-tolerance policy in May 2018, leading to more than 2,700 children being separated from their parents in less than a month before a federal judge halted the practice.

Advertisement



“It’s cruelty, and separating kids from parents goes against natural rights,” the pope said. “It’s something a Christian cannot do. It’s cruelty of the highest form.”

It is true that Tobin has criticized the policy, but in doing so he managed to be totally disingenuous by suggesting this humanitarian travesty was the result of a bipartisan failure on immigration reform. That’s BS. Trump owns it.

When it comes to his regular practice of calling out politicians who support abortion rights, Tobin has no problem naming names.

I’d be more impressed if he used his highly selective judgment to denounce anyone, including a sitting president, who supports separating little kids from their parents and putting them in cages.


Kevin Cullen is a Globe reporter and columnist who roams New England. He can be reached at kevin.cullen@globe.com.