Can We Stop Pretending Pope Francis Is a Reformer?

Pope Francis celebrates the Assumption Day mass in the Castelgandolfo's central square on August 15, 2013.     AFP PHOTO / PO
Pope Francis celebrates the Assumption Day mass in the Castelgandolfo's central square on August 15, 2013. AFP PHOTO / POOL/ ALESSANDRO BIANCHI (Photo credit should read ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Can we stop praising Pope Francis for being "progressive"? When it comes to social issues, the Catholic Church still bars women from taking leadership roles within the church, still opposes marriage equality, and still opposes changes to employment discrimination laws worldwide.

In 2010, when Pope Francis was still Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and his home country of Argentina was debating whether or not to pass legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children jointly, he condemned marriage equality as "a 'move' by the father of lies" and called being raised by same-sex parents a form of discrimination against children. And in an attempt to prevent this law from going into effect, the future pope penned this letter to the Carmelite nuns of his archdiocese:

The Argentine people will have to face, in the coming weeks, a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family. ...

At stake here is the identity and the survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of so many children who will be discriminated against beforehand, depriving them of the human development that God wished to give them with a father and a mother. At stake is a full rejection of God's law, further engraved in our hearts. ...

Let's not be naïve: This is not about a simple political fight; it's [about] a destructive pretension toward God's plan. This is not about a mere bill (that's just the means) but about a "move" by the father of lies, who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God. ...

We look to Saint Joseph, to Mary and to the Child Jesus and fervently ask that they defend the Argentine family in this moment. Let us remember what God himself said to his people in a moment of great anguish: "The battle is not yours but God's." May they help us, defend us and accompany us in this battle of God's.

This letter earned the cardinal a rebuke from Argentina's president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. To be clear, what the future pope did was attempt to use his religious clout to turn the public against a law that had greater than 70-percent public approval at the time. It's a far cry from the "who am I to judge?" attitude he's shown of late.

And even in Pope Francis' fluffier statements, he hasn't walked back any of the anti-transgender comments made by the previous pope, Benedict XVI, in his Christmas 2012 speech. In that speech Pope Benedict railed against anyone who would dare engage in a "manipulation of nature" -- that is, violate the gender roles prescribed by our assigned sex; in his eyes, the very humanity of transgender people was questionable.

What has Pope Francis done on LGBT issues that could be considered progressive? Aside from asking, "Who am I to judge?" and saying that the church should stop talking so much about its oppressive views on LGBT people, he's done absolutely nothing. He hasn't advocated for changing these policies; he's simply chosen to hide those policies under the rug, all while the church continues to fund anti-LGBT initiatives worldwide.

When I saw Chad Griffin, the head of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an organization ostensibly dedicated to LGBT equality but increasingly out of touch with anyone but its white, middle-to-upper-class, cisgender base, joyously praise Francis' hollow statements as having "pressed the reset button on the Roman Catholic Church's treatment of LGBT people," I couldn't help but hang my head in disappointment. He hasn't, nor will he ever.

Want to actually press that reset button, Francis? Start by condemning the words of your predecessor, who told millions of people that transgender individuals are less than human.