By Rob Watson
In March of 2013, I was writing a column about the pope. When I started writing it, I did not know exactly WHICH pope I was addressing. One pope had just left the post and the Vatican was in the throws of electing another. As I finished the piece, the announcement came. A former cardinal from Argentina was to be the new pope. Pope Francis.
My article, which enjoyed wide readership, made a request of the new pope. I sent it via twitter to the Argentinian’s personal account, hoping to reach him before he was sucked up into the Vatican forever. The last line of my request: “Surprise us. Inspire us. Show us what love really looks like.”
In many ways, he has done just that.
From a church famous for defining LGBT people as “intrinsically disordered”, it was a shock to hear its leader to utter the statement, “Who am I to judge?” There were plenty of anti-LGBT moments served up by the Catholic Church as well, but gracious moments reflected from the warmth from Pope Francis’s gentle, humble attitude DID “surprise us, inspire us” and gave us a hint what love from a pope could look like.
As he arrives in the United States, we are reminded that loving embraces of the pope may only go so far. It is rumored that he has concerns about LGBT people greeting him at the White House. Mike Huckabee, our Official Grand Gay Basher, tried to stoke those rumors on Fox News. “If I were hosting a group of Alcoholics Anonymous, I wouldn’t set up an open bar,” demonstrating in one breath that he is (1) completely ignorant about AA members who live their lives comfortably in open bar environments all the time, and (2) seems equally ignorant on the pope’s holistic values. While Huckabee may love the pope’s stance on abortion, he and other GOPers are aghast that the pope is anti-poverty, anti-capitalism, anti-guns, global warming conscious and for progressive immigration. If by Huckabee’s analogy a few LGBT handshakes are “open bars to AA members”, then the pope hanging out with the GOP Presidential want-to-be’s would be akin to thrusting the AA member into a drunken Frat party orgy and handing him or her a keg.
Tacky protocol not withstanding, there is a rumor going around that within the huge dogmatic monolith of a bureaucracy that is the Catholic Church, there is a living breathing human with a heart: Pope Francis.
It is to him, and that heart, that I make this invitation:
Dear Pope Francis,
Welcome to America. Welcome to the land of moneyed politics where the common man is being drummed out of having a voice. It is where the wealthy are running for office and the current Republican front runner has the advantage of being his own rich person, setting him apart from the others who are merely owned by other rich people.
It is a land that boasts as a major finance stream a “hate industry” operating under the guise of “Christianity” that raises millions of dollars by making media martyrs out of bigoted people refusing to do their jobs. It is a land that doles out regulations and restrictions over a virus that kills a few people and ignores proliferated weapons that kill hundreds of thousands.
Your brand of humility could be a breath of fresh air. Oh, yeah, and our air is heating up causing weird weather patterns. We’re not doing anything about that either.
I am a gay dad. I don’t detect that you come across very many people like me in your travels. You certainly did not when you hosted “Humanum”: The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium, at the Vatican with Pope Francis . That forum represented the worst of the worst in the intellectual rationalization of homophobia. Your Humanum videos represented fictions created by the now discredited anti-gay “researcher” Mark Regnerus. The forum itself included nonsensical speculations that:
- Same sex marriages are a trend that will go away
- Teens lose sight of their gender as they become aware of their sexual orientation
- The universe, the stars, planets and ecosystems were created through a heterosexual act
- The earth is a heterosexual creation- the ocean is female and the land is male
- There is a “counter” sexual revolution that is about to happen
- That same sex marriages will somehow impede “human flourishing”
Just as Mark Regnerus included NO families like mine to interview in his thousands of surveys (even though his study was supposedly to comment on LGBT families), no families like mine were at your forum either.
It begs the question, if you are going to make pronouncements about us, couldn’t you at least meet us first?
So, let’s change that and get together — shall we? You are cordially invited to come to Friday dinner with my family. In a sort of throwback to a previous Catholic mandate, we have fish on Fridays. I guess that is no longer a rule for Catholics, the having fish on Fridays thing, as you once did, but no matter.
It is funny how rules are re-evaluated and then changed, don’t you think? We can just call our Friday dinner a “traditional” one, protecting the sanctity of dining.
Plus, our “fish” is actually sushi, so we can even upgrade the old tradition a bit.
While you sit and eat with us, I will proudly introduce you to my children: my sons Jesse and Jason.
The Catholic Church has not been generous about the children in LGBT families. In the 1990s there was a Vatican document that stated that fathers like me were doing “violence” by parenting our kids, be exposing them to us.
You can chat with my boys, happy, healthy energetic 12 and 13 year olds, and tell me if you see signs of violence. I doubt that you will see any, even though, ironically, there has been violence there.
Not by me. Jesse is my son because his birth father battered and beat him when he was two years old. That act ended a process that would have reunified them and removed Jesse from my foster care. Instead, it made him my son for life.
You would have a lot in common with Jason. He, like you, comes from a Latin American ancestry. He can tell you his worries about Donald Trump building a wall attempting to keep any of his, and your, heritage from further penetrating our country. He can also tell you how his birth parents were Catholics, who ingested heroin, causing him to be born six weeks prematurely while fighting for life.
He is not being raised Catholic, as our family would not be welcome in that environment. Your environment. We are open to hearing how you might change that.
He is living proof that being physically born to two people who can biologically create life is not the same thing as being loved and parented by someone who cares for you above all else. Other children bearing out that sad reality are little Zachary, and little Gabriel, both beaten to death by their birth parents when each was suspected of growing up gay.
While we share our fish with you, we can talk about Christ, who taught all men to fish. We can share how we used the nets God gave us and cast them into life. Our nets were not made of sperm and egg, they were made of love and hope. What we netted was our own family.
There is nothing you could say to me that would dissuade me from knowing that my sons and I were meant to be together. We were and are each other’s destiny.
One of our family values is kindness. We think it is one in which you would agree, and appreciate. We also honor humility. To us, that is the quality which says we are all teachable, we are open to looking at things fresh, from a new point of view.
Many who have had a change of perspective about LGBT families, did it through insights made by their kids. Through their eyes, they see that the modern world is being formed more by love than by DNA, and not only is that alright, it is a good thing.
In the past fourteen years, my kids have made me see things differently, better. It has changed my world.
I know this would be hard for you, as you do not have kids. You never have, and never will. So, with the meal we would share, I will give you something more.
My kids. You get to pretend they are yours for the evening. Laugh with them, communicate with them, and experience their joy. Give them a few hours to rule your world. Trust me, if you do, that world will never again look the same.
You have broadened the embrace of your church from its predecessor. We applaud you. We want to believe in the compassion you seem to express. As you have extended your range to include many others who have felt forgotten or discarded, I ask you to reach just a little bit farther.
Please include LGBT people and families like mine.
If you can’t, at the very least, be looking into the eyes of kids like my son Jason when you explain why. If you succeed getting through that explanation, then the heart I thought was there… isn’t.