20 March 2015

Pope To Lunch With LGBT Prisoners In Naples

Even though I've had positive experiences in a church, and with some religious people, it's still feels strange sometimes to praise someone who occupies a high position in the heirarchy of a long-established religious institution.  Most such sects and denominations have their histories of prejudice, persecution and violence against women, LGBT people and members of minority groups who aren't represented in local (or, in some cases, worldwide) congregations.  Oh, and let's not forget those who challenge--with facts--long-held tenets of said institution's dogma.  

Sometimes they seem--at least to me--disingenuous when they preach tolerance and inclusiveness or when they say that their faith really is compatible after all with what science has taught us.  And, sometimes, when the leaders of those institutions make such pronouncements, I have to wonder what they were doing when their religious bodies were collaborating with secular authorities that kidnapped, tortured and murdered people simply because they happened to be of the "wrong" ethnicity, gender or political affiliation.

The previous sentence summed up what I thought when Francis became the Pope nearly two years ago.  In his native Argentina, Church officials collaborated with--or did nothing--when the military regime was "disappearing" those deemed a threat.  There doesn't seem to be any record of open or even covert opposition on his part though, to his credit, he was working with the poor, something he has done throughout his career as a priest.

That work is one of the reasons why I have become more and more willing to believe the Pope when he expresses acceptance ("Who am I to judge?") for LGBT people.  Said expression is not only in his words:  He has actually met with gay, lesbian and trans people.  From what I've read and heard, all have come away convinced that he is "for real".

Now I see more evidence of Pope Francis' commitment to the spiritual principles that, supposedly, Jesus embodied in living among the poor, oppressed and despised.  Tomorrow, he is going to have lunch with 90 prisoners at the Giuseppe Salvia Detention Center.  Among those inmates will be some  from a ward housing gay, transgender and HIV-infected detainees.  They were selected through a raffle from among 1900 inmates at the center.  

After the lunch, the Pope will meet with each of the prisoners individually.  

What's most impressive about this, at least to me, is that none of it was originally on his schedule.  He requested the lunch and meetings, and used the occasion to reiterate the Church's official position that no crime deserves the death penalty.


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