MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s conservative movement against same-sex marriage seems to have gained a holy backer.
During last Sunday’s mass at the Vatican, Pope Francis said a few words that are being interpreted by many Mexicans as a show of support for those leading the fight against marriage equality in the Aztec nation.
“I adhere myself in good will with the bishops of Mexico to sustain the Church’s commitment to civil society in favor of the family and life, that during this time require special pastoral and cultural attention around the world,” Francis said.
The pope’s words are being touted by Mexico's recently revived conservative movement, which has found new strength in its efforts to oppose same sex marriage. That's why the pope's message, which could boost the anti-gay movement even more, come as a particularly bitter blow to gay Catholics, who have been fighting for a more inclusive Church and society in Mexico.
“The timing of the pope’s message is very painful. It hurts me,” said 29-year-old LGBTQ rights supporter Saúl Espino. “He’s leaving us alone when we most need him. However, I also understand there is a lot of political manipulation in the high spheres of the Vatican.”
Espino says, “As a catholic and a homosexual, I’ve always tried to further an agenda within the Church that avoids polarization between both communities.” But it's not always easy, especially when the Mexican archdiocese is "using social anger to further a very clear political agenda.”
“They’ve turned same-sex marriage into a conceptual scarecrow,” he said.
The nationwide protests against President Enrique Peña Nieto’s initiative to legalize same sex marriage are being lead by Mexico’s Frente Nacional por la Familia (National Front for the Family), a movement that claims membership of more than a thousand civil society organizations.
Although the protests have been slammed as “hate speech” by Mexico’s LGBTQ community, the National Front denies it’s movement is about attacking gay rights. So the pope’s apparent backing of their cause shouldn't be cause for concern among Mexico's gay rights advocates, the National Front claims.
“I think the pope’s backing doesn’t offend anyone,” Consuelo Mendoza, a spokeswoman for the National Front, told Fusion. “The pope is a leader of our time. We share his call for tolerance and respect and we avoid speculating about the life decisions of others. But a true leader most look out for everyone and he supports this movement. He knows there are many catholic citizens [in this movement].”
Mendoza says her movement is not taking its cues from Mexico’s Catholic Church.
“I think the movement has been wrongly framed. Our movement is citizen-led. There is no political party behind it. It’s not a movement that's being funded or managed by any church. Our message is simple: We are asking the government to respect the family and to create policies that prioritize children and their families,” Mendoza said. “Democracy must protect minorities but it also needs to protect the majority and the natural family is the majority in Mexico.”
Mendoza says the movement supports the right of gay men and women to chose who they live with, but claims that shouldn't change the definition of marriage in Mexico. She says the movement is weary of Peña Nieto’s proposal to allow homosexuals to adopt children and insists adoption is not an adult’s right, rather a child’s right.
Mexican LGBTQ rights supporters claim statements like these are inherently homophobic.
“I attended the National Front march last Saturday and yes, there were people who were careful not to come off as anti-gay, but there were many holding signs and chanting slogans that referred to homosexuality as something perverted and evil,” says Ricardo Baruch, a 30-year-old doctorate student and LGBTQ supporter.
Baruch believes the Mexican Church is behind the anti-gay movement, pointing to a series of editorials recently published in Desde la Fe, a newspaper run by the Mexican Archdiocese.
This Sunday the catholic newspaper enumerated several arguments against same-sex marriage, alleging a “child has higher chance of suffering sexual abuse from a homosexual father” and “countless scientific studies show that homosexuals are more prone to suffer and spread sexually transmitted diseases.”
Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera is also supporting the National Front’s efforts. Last month the Cardinal went as far as to say “a man’s anus is not designed to receive, only to expel.”
Now that the pope seems to be getting involved, Mexico’s LGBTQ community feels the pontiff is retreating to conservative doctrine after appearing to take progressive stances last year.
“It’s sad to hear Pope Francis support this since during his first years in the Vatican he seemed very open. But again we are seeing how he is returning to more traditionalist stances within the Church,” Baruch told Fusion.
But being gay and catholic are not irreconcilable, says Saúl Espino.
“Being gay and catholic was a very painful process but I finally learned that my faith and my sexuality are not incompatible. Being catholic has allowed me to realize there are many injustices and it has only helped my christian compromise.”