Pope Francis’ first visit to Latin America has sparked all sorts of comments and headlines, some praising the Holy Father on his approachability, and others remarking his unorthodox take on leading the Catholic Church. One of the most talked-about bits of the Pope’s visit to Brazil was his statement on the gay community -- which was very much unlike his predecessor’s position.
“If somebody is gay and looks for God, who am I to judge them?” he said in an unusually frank press conference on the plane back to Rome.
The unprecedented move has prompted Roberto Francisco Daniel, a former priest in Brazil, to seek justice. Daniel, who used to serve in the Bauru diocese in São Paulo, was excommunicated in April for publicly defending gays and criticizing the church’s attitude towards them.
“They treated me as if I were a teenager. I was publicly exposed. I didn’t even have the right to a trial,” he said to local newspaper Folha de São Paulo. He pointed out that his issue is not with the Catholic Church, but with his diocese.
Daniel never wanted to take back his comments, and went so far as to write them up in his book “Verdades Proibidas” (Forbidden Truths), in which he shed light into many of the controversial issues surrounding the Catholic Church. Brazil, with 126 million faithful, is the country with the biggest Catholic population in the world.
Daniel is now taking the new statements from Pope Francis as a sign that the Church is changing its views towards the LGBT community and hoping it will be the proof that he was mistreated by his diocese.
“I just want to denounce that no institution, not even the Church, can treat anybody like they treated me,” he said.
According to the agreements between Brazil and the Vatican, the Church is obligated to follow the law of the country. So if a court sides with Daniel, the diocese would have to consider the tricky question of canceling the excommunication. Spanish newspaper El País noted that, given the opinion of Pope Francis on the gay community, there is a chance that the bishop will readmit Daniel without having to go to trial.