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LGBTQ-Friendly Cleric Named Cardinal; Far-Right Catholics Appalled

Archbishop Matteo Zuppi

Archbishop Matteo Zuppi has endorsed moderate, gradual moves toward LGBTQ acceptance in the church, but right-wingers say he's gone too far. 

An LGBTQ-friendly Italian archbishop has been promoted to cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, and right-wing Catholics are losing it.

Pope Francis announced Sunday that Archbishop Matteo Zuppi of Bologna and 12 other clerics were being elevated to cardinal, a rank that gives them great influence in the church and, for those under age 80, the power to vote on the next pope whenever Francis retires or dies. Zuppi is 63, well under the age limit.

Zuppi, who is known for his advocacy for immigrants, the poor, and other marginalized groups, wrote the foreword to the Italian edition, published in 2018, of Rev. James Martin's 2017 book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity. In the book, neither man challenges Catholic doctrine on LGBTQ issues -- the church considers same-sex relationships sinful and gender fixed at birth -- but they call on Catholic leaders to listen to LGBTQ people, recognize their gifts, and see that their relationships are based on love.

"The intent of the book is to help pastors develop an attitude of understanding, as well as a capacity for accompaniment, towards their homosexual brothers and sisters," Zuppi writes in the foreword, according to a translation published by America, a Catholic magazine. "And also vice versa, because there is also the mirror temptation to close oneself off or to assume ideological positions. ... Father Martin's book, one of the first attempts in this respect, is useful for encouraging dialogue, as well as reciprocal knowledge and understanding, in view of a new pastoral attitude that we must seek together with our L.G.B.T. brothers and sisters." Zuppi further endorses "gradualism" in dealing with LGBTQ issues.

That hardly sounds radical, and it even falls short of endorsing complete LGBTQ acceptance and equality within the church. But contributors to right-wing Catholic websites are appalled by Zuppi's promotion to cardinal.

Church Militant, for instance, calls Zuppi a "homosexualist" and says he has helped make the Bologna archdiocese "a hotbed of leftist politics and LGBT activism." Crisis Magazine dubs the new group of cardinals the "most blatantly political to date" and criticizes Zuppi for being associated with the "infamous" Martin. LifeSite News deems Zuppi's contribution to the book a source of controversy and puts "LGBT" in quotes, as though such identity isn't real, just as anti-marriage equality activists have put "marriage" in quotes when writing of same-sex unions.

LGBTQ-friendly Catholics, on the other hand, are encouraged by the elevation of Zuppi and several of the others in this class of cardinals. Martin praised Zuppi's promotion on Twitter:

New Ways Ministry, a group that advocates for LGBTQ equality within the church, lauded the appointment of Zuppi and three others. The others are Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, who has urged church leaders not to conflate homosexuality with pedophilia, pointing out that his nation's prime minister, Xavier Bettel, is gay and would never abuse a child; Rev. Michael Czerny, a Canadian priest who has met with LGBTQ groups to discuss the decriminalization of homosexuality around the world and founded a ministry for people with AIDS in Africa; and Archbishop Jose Tolentino Medonca, Vatican archivist and librarian, who "has spoken positively of LGBTQ ministries as far back as 2010," according to New Ways.

The 13 appointees will officially become cardinals during a ceremony at the Vatican October 5.

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