Along with being named person of the year by  Time , Pope Francis has gained a similar accolade from a zeitschrift of more rarified interest, namely,  The Advocate , the nation’s largest gay magazine.

The Advocate describes the search for its favorite as strongly flavored by questions of identity: One runner-up to the title was “the straight team of David Boies and Ted Olson, who . . . became the public champions for marriage equality’s advance through the justice system.” Another was “attorney Roberta Kaplan,  one of us , who eloquently refuted Chief Justice John Roberts when he suggested times have changed and LGBT people are no longer an oppressed minority.”[emphases added]

Perhaps this desire to stake out clear lines of identity explains the editors’ decision to brand a cheeky tattoo on Francis’ visage for the  The Advocate’ s cover page . But the effort to claim the pope as “one of us” seems to miss the point of the Christian charity Francis conveys so effortlessly. Pope Francis’ greatest strength, it would seem, is cutting across identities with Christian love, not staking out new boundaries in the politics of identity.

The article goes on to overlook the historical consistency of Francis’ message, arguing for a sharp disjunction with his predecessor Benedict, who once made  The Advocate’ s ”Phobie” list. (And that, after making statements as forceful as this one as early as 1986: “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”)

There’s a silver lining to be found in this. As  The Advocate  admits, the pope remains acutely opposed to the societal reengineering brought by same-sex marriage and its attendant innovations. But this can evidently be taken in stride given Francis’ fluency in transmitting Christian charity.  The Advocate ‘s praise for the pope would seem to vindicate the idea long insisted upon by Christians: Opposing the social revolution and its costs—when done with the ethos of charity—doesn’t make you a monster. Francis does, and he isn’t.

Articles by Kevin Staley-Joyce

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