Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected today as the 266th Pope and the first from the Americas. Taking the name Pope Francis I, church watchers expect his election to reaffirm Catholicism's place in Latin America and its role as a missionary church.
But Bergoglio's failed effort in 2010 to stop Aregntina from becoming the first Latin American country to legalize gay marriage illustrates the church's lessening moral influence in a changing world.
Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner championed the bill in 2010, while her husband Nestor Kirchner, who had preceded her as president, spearheaded the bill through the legislature. Polls at the time showed that almost 70 percent of Argentinians supported same-sex marriage, and many theorized Fernández championed the bill as a way to shore up support before her 2011 reelection. It appeared to work, as she is currently serving her second term. This despite the fact that nearly 90 percent of the country is Catholic.
But the no- Pope Francis became one of the leading voice against the bill in the country. As Cardinal of Buenos Aries, Francis helped organize protests against the same-sex marriage bill.
"Let's not be naive, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God," Francis wrote. "We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God."
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Fernandez, a Roman Catholic herself, shot back, saying his remarks were "really reminiscent of the times of the Inquisition."
"They are portraying this as a religious moral issue and as a threat to 'the natural order,' when what we are really doing is looking at a reality that is already there," she told the New York Times of the church's stance. "It would be a terrible distortion of democracy if they denied minorities their rights."
Ultimately, the bill passes and Fernandez signed it into law.