The Modern Pope Versus the Throwback Russian Over Gays


USNews & World Report  —  Thomas Jefferson Street Blog

July 30, 2013 RSS Feed Print

Pope Francis places a ball with the colors of the Brazilian flag at the altar of Saint Mary Major Basilica, in Rome.Pope Francis places a ball with the colors of the Brazilian flag at the altar of Saint Mary Major Basilica, in Rome.

So let me get this straight:  the leader of one of the world’s largest and most powerful nations threatens to arrest people, including tourists, who are gay or suspected of being gay, along with a wholesale crack-down on gays and lesbians.  A few days later the leader of one of the largest and most powerful religions opens up in an interview to say “who am I to judge” when it comes to gays.

Who would have thought?

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s horrendous declarations and the possibility of ensuing persecution throughout Russia are reminiscent of Nazi Germany. What’s next, being forced to wear pink triangles? Concentration camps? Clearly, there should be more outrage about Putin’s comments and the prejudice coming from the Russian Orthodox Church.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Catholic contraception controversy.]

It may be that part of the Pope’s reason for being so forthright in his interview is that he could see the trends in Russia as well as the opening up towards tolerance in the United States and other countries. He understands society – the good, the bad, and the need for forgiveness for all – much better than many thought.

The Vatican has traditionally not been comfortable with press inquiries, even written ones, let alone a free-wheeling press gaggle. But this Pope is different and is willing to engage with a more personal, honest, less controlling style than his predecessors.

In contrast, President Putin seems to be a leader from another era, from another century. His style of governing is more Stalin-like than modern.

Could it be that the Pope, with all the traditions he must uphold, understands modern society a lot better than a macho man who rides horseback with his shirt off?

I will trade this Pope for Putin anytime.