Is Pope Francis, who has been almost universally welcomed as a kinder, gentler shepherd of the Roman Catholic Church, a homophobe?
That possibility explains the consternation produced by reports that the pontiff acknowledged that there was a “gay lobby” at work in the Vatican. But it’s premature to conclude that the pope bears any animus toward gay clerics (assuming that they abide by their vows and abstain from sex) or gays and lesbians in general.
The English phrase “gay lobby” appears in a “synthesis” -- otherwise written in Spanish -- of the pope’s comments to a delegation of representatives of Latin American and Caribbean religious orders. Here’s the Associated Press account:
In the document, Francis is quoted as saying that while there were many holy people in the Vatican, there was also a current of corruption. “The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there … We need to see what we can do …,” the synthesis reads.
But there is a history to the term gay lobby. It harks back to salacious reports in the Italian press about such a lobby or faction at the Vatican during the pontificate of Benedict XVI. Supposedly it consisted of sexually active clerics who were the targets of blackmail by outsiders who wanted to influence papal policy. Any lobbying these compromised clerics were supposedly engaging in wouldn’t necessarily have anything to do with homosexuality.