By Michael O'Loughlin
Originally published on Advocate.com January 30 2014 2:33 PM ET
Rolling Stone's cover story on Pope Francis addresses gay issues and calls his nearly year-old pontificate “revolutionary” — but Vatican officials have derided the story as “superficial journalism.”
The article by Mark Binelli adds some context to the pope’s now-famous “Who am I to judge?” comment, made when he was asked about gay Catholic priests. Binelli summarizes a video of the press conference where the remark came:
A reporter asks Francis, who is standing at the head of the aisle, about the existence of a "gay lobby" within the Vatican. Francis begins by making a joke, saying he hasn't yet run into anyone with a special gay identification card. But then his face becomes serious and, gesturing for emphasis, he says it's important to distinguish between lobbies, which are bad — "A lobby of the greedy, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies!" he says later in the press conference — and individual gay people who are well-intentioned and seeking God. It's while speaking to the latter point that he makes the "Who am I to judge?" remark, and this part of the video is really worth watching, because, aside from the entirely mind-blowing fact of a supposedly infallible pope asking this question at all, his answer is never really translated properly. What he actually says is, "Mah, who am I to judge?" In Italian, mah is an interjection with no exact English parallel, sort of the verbal equivalent of an emphatic shrug. My dad's use of mah most often precedes his resignedly pouring another splash of grappa into his coffee. The closest translation I can come up with is "Look, who the hell knows?" If you watch the video, Francis even pinches his fingers together for extra Italian emphasis. Then he flashes a knowing smirk.
A Vatican spokesman weighed in on the report, calling it “superficial journalism” and lamenting the harsh appraisal of the tenure of Pope Benedict XVI’, Francis's immediate predecessor.
“Unfortunately, the article disqualifies itself, falling in the usual mistake of a superficial journalism, which in order to highlight the positive aspects of Pope Francis, thinks it should describe in a negative way the pontificate of Pope Benedict, and does so with a surprising crudeness,” said the Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, in a statement.
The Rolling Stone article calls Benedict’s papacy “disastrous” and describes him as “a staunch traditionalist who looked like he should be wearing a striped shirt with knife-fingered gloves and menacing teenagers in their nightmares.”
Pope Benedict was vocal in his opposition to LGBT rights, encouraging bishops in the U.S. to fight against marriage equality and suggesting that same-sex marriage threatened “the future of humanity itself.”
Pope Francis, while not signifying a shift in the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, nonetheless appears to seek more common ground with LGBT Catholics.
In addition to his comments on gay priests, he reportedly tried brokering a deal with conservative Catholic bishops in Argentina to support civil unions for same-sex couples, said that the church had become too “obsessed” with gay marriage, and included questions on offering pastoral care to families led by same-sex couples in a recent survey of Catholics across the globe.
In addition to appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone, Pope Francis has also been featured on the covers of Time and The New Yorker. The Advocate named him its Person of the Year for 2013.