With the election of a new Pope fast approaching, the scrutiny of potential successors to Benedict XVI is well under way as the Vatican is in the midst of the papal conclave. From what has been reported, it seems unlikely that there will be a more liberal approach to the papacy to follow that of the recently resigned ultra-conservative pontiff.
Already, the leading contender has let his views be known on LGBT issues. A genuine prospect to be Africa’s first Pope is Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. In 2012, the National Catholic register reported the Cardinal saying that people should understand the ‘reasons’ why some African governments have created legislation against homosexuality.
“The intensity of the reaction is probably commensurate with tradition. When you’re talking about what’s called an ’alternative lifestyle,’ are those human rights? There’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified” said Turkson.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada is another top contender. He is regarded as a carbon copy of Pope Benedict XVI with highly conservative positions on social issues such as LGBT rights and abortion. Ouellet, who is from Quebec, spoke out against equality when Canada was set to legalize same-sex marriage in 2005.
With candidates like Turkson and Ouellet in the lead, a major change in the Vatican’s ideology is not anticipated. However, observers of the Church say there must be hope that a more competent and common sense approach will prevail.
“I do not see there being an ideological shift, all the electors were chosen either by John Paul II or Benedict XVI. We might see some hope of sheer pragmatism, with someone chosen on competence who can run the Church well,” Irish Times assistant editor and social commentator Fintan O’Toole told 429Magazine.
O’Toole wrote an article earlier on the prevailing attitude within the priesthood of denial and hypocrisy towards homosexuality.
He said that this could not continue indefinitely.
“The Church can’t keep going on denying reality, even though it is an institution deeply entrenched. Ask the question to most Catholics whether they would be upset if their priest came out as gay and I think the answer would be no,” he added.
The question remains of when, if ever, the Vatican will follow other faiths such as the Anglican Church of England in becoming more tolerant of the LGBT community. Such a process will likely continue well beyond the new Pope’s election. In the long run, O’Toole predicts that we may see a Catholic Church heading towards a “substantial split if they don’t make some changes on the acceptance of LGBT people.”