Pope Francis appears more popular than ever. He has charted his own course in style, words and philosophy and enjoys favorability among 90 percent of Catholics, 74 percent white mainline Protestants, 68 percent of unaffiliated and 60 percent of white Evangelicals.
Francis' tenure as pope has also been notable by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community for his adoption of a more conciliatory tone toward LGBTQ people than that of his predecessors. "But anyone who utters Christian words without putting them into practice hurts oneself and others," said Pope Francis in 2013.
So where does Pope Francis stand on LGBTQ people?
"If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?"
Let's start off with one of the most decisive moments in Francis' papacy for LGBTQ people. When asked about gay priests during a spontaneous exchange with the press, he responded, "If they [gay priests] accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalized. The tendency [same-sex attraction] is not the problem... they're our brothers."1
The fact that Pope Francis made such a comment – and used the word "gay" in English – was radical, and helped propel significant conversations in parishes and dioceses on LGBTQ equality to this day. But more importantly, his comment set the tone and approach to talking about LGBTQ issues outside of the liberal-conservative axis.
"Sometimes it happens that you feel disappointed, discouraged, abandoned by all: but God does not forget his children, he never abandons them! He is always at our side, especially in trying times."
Pope Francis joined 90 prison inmates for lunch during his visit to Naples, including 10 from the ward which houses those who are gay, transgender, or have HIV/AIDS.
Pope Francis' willingness to include gay, trans and HIV+ prisoners in his luncheon and to allow an LGBTQ advocacy group on the parade route, but not mentioning either of them in his talks, shows the complicated approach he is taking to LGBTQ issues.
"I ask you to pray fervently for this intention," the Pope continued, "so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, scandalous or threatening, and turn it ... into a miracle. Families today need miracles!"
Context: In his homily, or sermon, the Pope referred to a highly anticipated meeting of bishops to be held in Rome this October. The Catholic leaders are expected to discuss changes to several controversial areas of church teaching, including divorce and homosexuality.
The bishops will "consider concrete solutions," Francis said, "to the many difficult and significant challenges facing families in our time."2
"I ask you to pray fervently for this intention," the Pope continued, "so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, scnadalous or threatening, and turn it ... into a miracle. Families today need miracles!"
"We have to find a way to help that father or that mother to stand by their [LGBTQ] son or daughter."
That's the message Pope Francis has for parents of LGBTQ children, in an interview with La Nacion, a leading conservative newspaper in Argentina. "We come across this reality all the time in the confessional: a father and a mother whose son or daughter is in that situation."
While the Pope's welcoming tone of acceptance is a step in the right direction, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church [#2357]3, the "homosexual acts" in Catechism expressed by our LGBTQ children continue to be characterized as "intrinsically disordered ... contrary to natural law ... [and] close the sexual act to the gift of life."
There is a basic incoherence between the Pope's words and the Church's teaching on homosexuality that in reality present serious moral dilemmas for Catholic mothers and fathers of LGBTQ children. At the end, it leaves parents with more questions than answers, and leaves children with continued vulnerability.
"Let's think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings. Let's think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation."
In Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi's new book Pope Francis: This Economy Kills, Francis condemns "gender theory," comparing it to nuclear war and genetic manipulation.4
His analogy stems from the Church's understanding of the gender spectrum within the restrictive duality of man and woman, rejecting the disconnection of gender identity and gender expression from biology. In reality, the pontiff's view, grounded in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, ignores the existence and experiences of millions of transgender and gender variant individuals who do not fit the strict duality. And doing so would be a gross caricature of human history that hs provided space for the Biblical Ethiopian Eunuch and other gender variant people throughout the centuries.
Francis' remarks on gender theory in the book follow similar remarks he made in a press conference on the papal plane in January in which he criticized what he called "ideological colonization" of less developed countries by those with more resources.
"The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life."
Family is the center and the heart of the LGBTQ movement's quest for equality. The pontiff's statement denigrates millions of children raised by LGBTQ parents, including those with unmarried heterosexual parents. Our children don't deserve this.
"[...] I wish to express my appreciation to the entire Slovak church, encouraging everyone to continue their efforts in defense of the family, the vital cell of society."5
This statement was the Pope's most direct involvement in a national marriage equality debate. The Slovak referendum was initiated by Alliance for Family, a conservative church-backed group, calling for a vote on the law. Critics accuse the Conference of Slovak Bishops of orchestrating the referendum. The vote, which cost more than €6.3 million to run, has led to conservative groups spending around €110,000 on advertisements. The Christian conservative activism platform CitizenGo, run by Brian S. Brown, the American founder of the National Organization for Marriage, has suppored the referendum.