Marcelo Marquez received an unsuspected phone call in 2010. The voice on the other end of the line was Jorge Mario Bergoglio, then the archbishop of Buenos Aires, and now the Pope.
The call came less than an hour after he fired off an angry letter about the Catholic Church’s handling of the debate over same sex marriage.
Soon after the phone call, they met. And what Cardinal Bergoglio told him was very surprising.
For months Church officials had been critical of Argentina’s push to legalize same-sex marriages. But Bergoglio seemed to take a softer position.
“He told me. … ‘I’m in favor of gay rights and in any case, I also favor civil unions for homosexuals, but I believe that Argentina is not yet ready for a gay marriage law,'” said Marquez, a gay rights activist, a self-described devout Catholic and a former theology professor at a Catholic seminary.
Publicly, as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio spoke as the Church’s representative and denounced the position of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner who was in complete support of the measure.
Bergoglio put himself in the middle of the fight, calling the proposed legislation “a destructive attack on God’s plan.”
But behind closed doors, Marquez said, the man who would become pope appeared to be more open to discussion about the issue.
In another meeting, Bergoglio told him he had always treated gay people with respect and dignity.
“I have accompanied many homosexual people during my career to tend to their spiritual needs,” Bergoglio said at the time, according to Marquez.
The New York Times published an article in 2010 that he told bishops that he believed the Church should support civil unions for gay couples.
“Bergoglio — faithful to his moderate position — proposed continuing measured actions. … He would suggest, also, that the church discreetly accept the intermediate alternative of the civil union — authorizing a series of rights (inheritance, social work) — that would not equate to marriage nor permit adoption,” wrote journalist Sergio Rubin — now Bergoglio’s biographer.
The bishops rejected his proposal, insisting they mount a high profile campaign against same-sex marriage.
Argentina approved a law legalizing same-sex marriage in July 2010.
Although Bergoglio was one of the laws most famous opponents, Marquez is hopeful that prior discussions he had with the Cardinal who is now the Pope will be included in future dialogue.
“We are going to try to have a dialogue with the pope,” Marquez said. “It’s frightening, but I think it must be done.”
What will the reign of Pope Francis mean to over a billion and a half Catholics around the world? And, will his actions come quickly, or will we see a slow process, a measured change? Or will we see a Pope who succumbs to the pressure of the “old guard”, and continues failed Church policies?
Columnist-The Guardian Express