We Need to Have Higher Standards

Centuries of trauma led by the Catholic Church cannot be healed by a few statements

Emma Mendez // Contributor
Coralie Mayer-Traynor // Illustrator

As the end of October neared, the world, especially the Catholic and Christian world, was taken by surprise after Pope Francis made international headlines.

In a year-old video, the head of the Catholic Church stated, “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family.” It was not necessarily this statement that shocked many, but rather his endorsement of same-sex civil unions, which many took to mean he also supported same-sex marriage.

This was not the first time Pope Francis had made pro LGBTQ2S+ statements during or prior to his papacy. Yet, it’s hard to ignore the significance—or potential significance—these statements can have. While many celebrate his “bold” statements as progressive and a big step forward for the Catholic Church, not everyone feels the same. I fall into the latter group, but not for the reasons you may think. As a mixed-Indigenous, Latinx and Queer woman, I have my reasons for being critical. And while people may call me a hater, there are some things people should consider before they start singing the pope’s praises. With the significant role the Catholic Church played in the colonization and genocide of millions, the pope’s endorsement of civil unions and seemingly pro-LGBTQ2S+ statements are not enough to even begin the healing process for the LGBTQ2S+ community—especially for Queer BIPOC. 

What does the Catholic Church have to do with colonialism, BIPOC and the LGBTQ2S+ community? Prior to colonization, the rise of Christianity, and the Catholic Church as a religious institution, many cultures around the world recognized and celebrated individuals of varying genders and romantic and sexual orientations. Although perspectives and community roles of these individuals varied—and still varies—from culture to culture, LGBTQ2S+ folk were respected and appreciated in their cultures and societies. But that all changed.

Queer BIPOC have been stripped of liberation in a million different ways—yet we are leaders in our communities. Stonewall, and what was the Gay Liberation Front, was spearheaded by mainly Black (and Latinx) trans women. 

The legacy of colonialism on the global LGBTQ2S+ community, especially Queer BIPOC, is the demonization of their identity and existence, and one of deep pain and trauma. A statement that takes no responsibility for the Catholic Church’s impact on Queer BIPOC and LBGTQ2S+ communities and makes no acknowledgement of their role in the spread of queerphobia is essentially useless.

Throughout his career in the Church, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, has been known to make queerphobic statements. The Catholic Church readily supported him then, often by reaffirming religious doctrine and the word of God. Yet, in instances such as the one in October, the Church is quick to claim that “he was misinterpreted.” The lack of inaction over the years has been discouraging, to say the least. The controversy and division between the Catholic Church and the Vatican make it evident that real progress and change—at least to the extent needed by the LGBTQ2S+ community—is not possible within the Catholic Church. 

This is not about God or one’s faith in higher powers, but about religion, Christianity and the Catholic Church as an institution. An institution with centuries of suffering and blood on its hands that refuses to practice what it preaches: to take accountability and responsibility. 

Our community deserves more than empty words and inaction. Our joy, our freedom to be, live, and love has been robbed from us for centuries. We’ve lost people through persecution and suicide. Queer BIPOC have been stripped of liberation in a million different ways—yet we are leaders in our communities. Stonewall, and what was the Gay Liberation Front, was spearheaded by mainly Black (and Latinx) trans women. 

To say the past matters is an understatement because the past shapes the future. It is looking at the past and taking action to learn from it along with attempting to right injustices that we create a different future. A future where healing is possible more than ever and toxic cycles brought by colonialism are collectively broken. I want this future for our community and the collective. The question is, do you?

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