I know that there are a few people disappointed today that the new archbishop of Rome is not a Black man. When Pope Benedict XVI resigned, there was much speculation about Cardinal Peter Turkson becoming the new pontiff. This would election of Cardinal Peter Turkson would have been a first for the Catholic church and many were excited about the possibility. Yesterday, the white smoke was revealed and the Argentinean, Francis I is now the Pope.
I watched the media coverage last night and listened with great dismay at the constant refrain about what a change in direction Francis I represents for the Catholic church. The moment he was announced, like many, I went straight to google to learn more about him. With 85 million Catholics in North America alone, and 1.5 billion followers worldwide, the power and influence that Francis I will wield is immense. I quickly discovered that despite all of the rhetoric about Francis I being a reformer, the new boss is the same as the old boss. Pope Francis has been given the label of reformer because he prefers a simple lifestyle, which included refusing a car and taking the bus and spendin much time ministering to the poor. While his outreach to the poor is admirable, this does not mean we should ignore the problematic aspects of his ministry.
Francis I believes that same sex marriage "is a machination of the Father of Lies" and that a same sex couple adopting a child, is an act of discrimination against said child. He is anti-abortion and of course, anti-contraception. As far as I can see, this Pope is just as problematic as those who have gone before.
Had Cardinal Peter Turkson been elected the Bishop of Rome instead of Francis I, things would not have been much different. In AIDS ravaged Africa, Turkson is against the usage of condoms except in situations in where one half of a married couple is infected.
He even chastised U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for calling on African countries to end the criminalization of homosexuality:
[The Church pushes] for the rights of prisoners [and] the rights of others, and the last thing we want to do is infringe upon the rights of anyone. But when you’re talking about what’s called ‘an alternative lifestyle,’ are those human rights? [ Ban Ki-moon] needs to recognize there’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified. [source]