Half a million Catholics have signed a petition calling for Pope Francis to publicly denounce divorced and gay people.
Signatories to the petition included archbishops and senior cardinals. It stated that the Pope should “clarify the growing confusion amongst the faithful” at a Vatican synod in October.
American conservative Catholic organisation TFP Student Action launched the petition. The group’s director John Ritchie said they had done so out of concern that “the enemies of the family [will] continue to chip away at holy matrimony”. He claimed that “the future of the family and civilisation itself will be in even more serious peril” if they do not act.
The Argentinian pontiff caused controversy soon after his election. When asked about his views on homosexuality he asked “Who am I to judge?” While this statement was welcomed by gay rights advocates, many more conservative members of the Catholic Church objected.
Additionally, Pope Francis has also declared that divorced and remarried people should be welcomed by the Church. This goes against current rules which dictate that such people cannot receive communion.
Speaking to The Times, journalist and author John Thavis said the disputes point to “a wider divergence” within the Church. The Pope wants the religion to be “a source of joy and salvation, not as a litmus test to see if you fit in the club”, he added.
This divergence highlights a stark contrast between Pope Francis and the two previous pontiffs, Mr Thavis said, but the problem he faces is that “most bishops were appointed by his predecessors”.