Don’t expect the next pope to preside over a gay couple’s marriage.
Pope Benedict XVI, who announced on Monday that he will step down as head of the Catholic Church at the end of February, has taken a hard line on same-sex marriage.
He worried LGBT Catholics in California when he appointed Salvatore Cordileone as archbishop of San Francisco. Cordileone helped lead the drive for California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage.
And Benedict himself has often spoken out to condemn same-sex marriage, including a Christmas, 2012 speech in which he called it an “attack” on the traditional family.
“It’s clear that he has been a real tough disciplinarian,” said Bernard Schlager, a Catholic who teaches at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, and is Executive Director of the Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry. “Not just on LGBTQ, but other issues he has taken a real hard line.”
But none of the cardinals who might take Benedict’s place have expressed a more liberal view. “The bishops around the world right now are so conservative,” said Schlager.
A heterosexual-only view of marriage is written into the Catechism of the Catholic Church, its guiding principles, and Schlager doesn’t foresee the next pope changing it. “I would be more than shocked if that were to happen.”
The new pope could address other concerns high on the list of Californians, however, said Schlager, such as ethnic diversity.
Some Catholics are hoping that the College of Cardinals will chose a pope from the Southern Hemisphere. [pullquote]More on the church’s changing demographics from NPR.org
Except in ancient times, there has never been a pope from outside Europe, even though the church is more “vibrant” in South America, Africa and Asia, said Schlager.
On the other hand, Christoph von Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, has said the church should review its requirement of celibacy for priests in light of recent sex abuse scandals.
As in other parts of the country, sex abuse scandals have roiled California dioceses, including in Los Angeles where former Archbishop Roger Mahony was accused of covering up abuses. In January his successor, José Horacio Góme Mahony, relieved Mahony of pastoral duties.
It’s not inconceivable that the next pope would lift the celibacy requirement. “Catholic seminaries would fill up over night,” said Schlager. Also the next pope might hold more priests accountable for committing abuse.
Other Bay Area Catholics had mixed reactions to the news of Pope Benedict’s retirement. At Most Holy Redeemer Catcholic Church Senior Center, Linda Marie Pillay told KQED’s Aarti Shahani that she hoped Benedict’s successor would be more modern. “He was too conservative,” she said. “He wanted to go back to the Latin mass, to put women in their place so to speak, all these things that are not relevant anymore to today’s world.”
Attending Mass at St. Patrick’s Church, Trish Sadaya told Shahani it’s all in God’s hands. “I love the pope and I’ll love the next one too. So, unconditional love. Amen.”
Cordileone praised the retiring pope in a written statement. “Those of us who know him and who have watched his whole life unfold in service to God, can see that that this decision to step down was motivated by his own discernment of what best serves the good of the Church,” he said. “I will pray for him with great filial affection, and ask that we all hold him in prayer at this time.”