Thank you for this response: much appreciated.
While I would not go so far as to liken Francis to a turd, I will say this: he's homophobic indeed, and transphobic, no matter how benign his personal character or how open to dialogue he is, and unfortunately that comes with the job description in the College of Cardinals. In the phrase "liberal Catholic", the noun modifies the adjective.
I think there are two reasons why the Catholic hierarchy can't wrap their heads around sex and gender matters, each very different from the other.
First of all, since at least the first Vatican council, where Pius IX defined papal infallibility and rejected pretty much everything associated with the Enlightenment, the Roman Catholic church locked itself into a situation where the stability of “official church teaching” was more important than its rational cogency or, in the words of the Pragmatist Charles Sanders Peirce, keeping the path of inquiry open. They put themselves in a position where one couldn’t say “Geez, I really don’t know and have to think about this.” What this does is it bleeds the life out of any theological and philosophical tradition, resting as they do on the ongoing and open-ended characteristic of debate and dialogue. You can be sure that if you have two Catholics arguing about anything — sex, war, capitalism, democracy — within two minutes the argument will devolve into one about church authority rather than the matter at hand. It drove me nuts when I was a Catholic, and in key part is the reason why I became an agnostic and then an Episcopalian. Besides being LGBTQ friendly, the Episcopalians are far more concerned with worship and community than they are about the minutiae of doctrine. Which is it should be. Because if you need to fret about every jot and tittle of your belief-set, you evade recognizing the fact that your beliefs are fallible and that at any moment probably a lot of them are wrong, which means you have some work to do. And as you noted, this has caused a lot of pain and anguish regarding contraception and LGBTQ matters, especially in less priviliged quarters of the world. Not “wanting to think about it” can cost lives.
The second reason is the “old boys club” organization of the Roman Catholic church — its all-male clergy pledged to celibacy. Ordinates are told that, when they are consecrated as priests, they undergo an “ontological change” that makes them different from before. It is either a weird notion or a commonplace one that does not “elevate” you at all above other mortals. On one level, it seems to me, that whenever you pass a milestone or undergo a rite of passage, you undergo an “ontological change”: like, when one becomes a parent, or gets a college degree, or has one’s quincenera celebration. It happens all the time and is not that big of a deal. But for Catholic priests, it is. It instills a certain sense of innate superiority that entitles one to be patronizing and condescending, and to view this as an entitlement. Not all Catholic priests behave that way, especially many of those in more astute orders, like the English Dominicans or American Jesuits. And many, many nuns aren’t like that, and are sick and tired of the shit they are dealt by the “old boys club” all the time. But that elite club mentality persists and is all over the place, especially at the parish level. It invariably makes for complacency, insensitivity, a reflex for cozying up to power rather than challenging it, and a tendency to deny or cover up flaws and misjudgments and outright evildoing. The “ontological superiority” business and the old boys club mentality is the motive force behind the pedophilia scandals and the even more horrifying tales of torture in the “Magdalen laundries” and “wayward girls’ homes” of Ireland. The Roman Catholic church’s moral authority is completely shot because of this old boys club mentality. And as long as a celibate, all-male clergy persists, and as long as my first reason continues to prevail, I doubt any of this will change.
Thank you for letting me ramble. And again — many thanks for the comment and the claps. — -L