Pope Francis, much lauded for shifting the Catholic church's tone on LGBT issues, struck a less conciliatory note in a speech he made today in Manila, the Philippines, where he said that the "family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life." These forces, he said, are attempting the "ideological colonization of the family."
According to Crux, a Boston Globe blog covering Catholic issues, the Vatican confirmed that the pontiff was alluding to same-sex marriage.
"The comments take on additional significance ahead of a summit of Catholic bishops scheduled for October on issues pertaining to family life, where issues such as marriage and contraception are expected to arise," Crux reported.
The pope has a mixed record when it comes to LGBT issues. He's been much quoted for his "Who am I to judge?" remark, and under his leadership the Vatican has made apparent overtures toward LGBT people. However, the Vatican has also held a "traditional marriage" summit, and Pope Francis has made negative remarks about nontraditional families.
This has led to conflicting perceptions of the pope's true intentions. Some see a prospective reformer who has to placate more conservative powers that be as part of the line he must walk; others see "white smoke and mirrors," as a Salon piece posited last year.
Is there real change, or is the shift in tone all surface?
"I think that's a really complex question," said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of LGBT Catholic organization Dignity USA. Duddy-Burke sees Pope Francis refocusing on poverty, a move she thinks is positive. But when it comes to families, she said, "We're still hearing some very right-wing rhetoric. I think it's a complex picture."
Duddy-Burke said the pope's use of the phrase "ideological colonization" was disconcerting because it is language "right out of the evangelical right."
"Obviously, I think it's really disappointing that the pope is taking such a narrow view of what family is and continuing this mythology that ... marriage should be limited to one man, one woman," she said. "The reality is that support for same-sex marriage ... comes from very Catholic values -- love, commitment, family, equality, justice."