So everyone was quoting some statements that the newish Pope made in a very long interview this week, where he said that “we” shouldn’t focus only on fighting gay rights, stopping abortion, and stopping people from having access to birth control.
The shallow media reported it as a huge shift away from the church being politically active. The liberal blogosphere touted it as an admonishment of groups such as the Catholic League and the National Organization for Marriage who spend 99% of their time harping on those three subjects. The pseudo-liberal blogosphere touted it as a significant shift in both tone and objectives. And the various forces on the right, including those anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-women’s rights organization all insisted that the Pope wasn’t changing anything at all.
Folks like the blustering jerk from the Catholic League, Bill Donahue, took the statements as encouragement to double-down on the hate and denial. He insisted, in fact, that organizations like his aren’t obsessed with only being anti-gay, anti-abortion, and anti-women. No, according to him it’s the liberal media and the Obama administration who somehow make it seem as if all the Catholic League cares about is gays, abortions, and birth control. Those things are still wrong, and they need to be fought, but the fight needs to continue as part of the overall mission of the church to love everyone, no matter how sinful.
And the thing is, the rightwing anti-gay catholic spokespeople are correct. That is much closer to what the Pope said. Maybe he is admonishing the most vocal political action organizations to soften their tone a bit, but the very best spin you can put on his words is still, “hate the sin, love the sinner.”
It reminds me of a sequence from the Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman. There’s one long story line which involved the Devil resigning, kicking all the lost souls and demons out of hell, locking the gates of hell, and then handing the key over to Dream, who does not want it. At the end of the story, two angels receive a message from God to take the key, re-open hell, call all the souls and demons back, and start running it again.
There’s a scene after that where some souls are being tortured by a demon, and one of the two angels now in charge interrupts to admonish the demon. He explains to both the demon and the tortured soul that all of this is part of the creator’s plan. The souls sent to hell aren’t being tortured out of cruelty and hatred, but out of love. The demon will continue to torture the souls exactly the same way that they always have, except now they are doing it out of love. Because god loves everyone, even the souls he has condemned to an eternity of torment in hell. So the torture isn’t being administered for cruel reasons, but out of love.
As the angel departs and the demon resumes the torture, one of the souls says, “Actually, that makes it worse.”
Yes. Yes it does.
Update: This post rounds up more of the details in case you don’t understand just how anti-gay the pope’s position still is: Pope Francis Says More Nice Words About LGBTs, Changes Nothing