Pope Francis Offers Respect for Gay Priests, Signaling a New Papal Direction

In what is probably his most gay-friendly statement to date, Pope Francis said that he will not judge gay priests, and he respects their vocation.

Pope Francis on plane

Pope Francis on plane

The New York Times quotes his response to a reporter’s question about gay priests, asked during a press conference on the plane ride back to Rome from World Youth Day celebrations in Brazil:

 “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

This is probably the clearest break with his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  Benedict issued an instruction to bishops not to accept gay candidates for the seminary, a policy that was being considered under John Paul’s papacy.

The Chicago Tribune expanded on the pope’s comments on this topic:

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well.  It says they should not be marginalized because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society.

“”The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem.”

The pope was answering a question about his statement last month concerning a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, so his reference to lobbies above probably refers to that context.

The Tribune also noted that Francis joked about his “gay lobby” comment:

“You see a lot written about the gay lobby. I still have not seen anyone in the Vatican with an identity card saying they are gay.”

The New York Times expanded on the gay lobby comment, and also allegations of gay trysts happening among staff at the Vatican Bank:

“Reporters on the plane said that the pope had been candid and high-spirited and didn’t dodge a single question, even thanking the person who asked about reports of a ‘gay lobby’ inside the Vatican, and about Italian press reports that one of the advisers he had appointed to look into the Vatican Bank had been accused of having gay trysts.

“Francis said he had investigated the reports and found them groundless. He added that while such a lobby would be an issue, he did not have anything against gays and that their sins should be forgiven, media reports said. He said that while homosexuals should be treated with dignity, using sexual orientation for blackmail or pressure was a different matter.”

Many people have been waiting for a clear message from Pope Francis on LGBT issues, and it seems like this one indicates he will take a decidedly different approach than his immediate predecessors had done.

Some will say that this is not enough, that he still refers to sins of homosexuals, but I think the important thing is the question of emphasis.  While his predecessors emphasized sin in relationship to LGBT people, Pope Francis looks like he will be emphasizing human dignity, respect, and social integration.  Even if he doesn’t drop the sin language, this is still a major step forward, and one that can pave the way for further advancements down the road.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

40 replies
  1. John ODonnell
    John ODonnell says:

    Clearly, Francis is changing the tone on several issues, gay priests being one. The real test will be whether he instructs seminaries to disregard the sexual preference of candidates for admission.

  2. terenceweldon
    terenceweldon says:

    The shift in emphasis is crucial. ThThere is in fact absolutely nothing new in this – it’s all absolutely standard, orthodox Catholic doctrine, which contains two parts. There is a compassionate side, directing that we should be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity, and protected from unjust discrimination, and from violence or malice, in words or in deeds. Then there’s the harsh side, denying absolutely any hope of physical expression of our loves in genital acts. The problem has been that many bishops, and the previous two popes, have ignored or directly flouted the compassionate parts of teaching, focusing exclusively on the harshest bits. Francis is not in any way signalling a shift in actual teaching – but he is introducing some sorely needed balance. That alone is welcome.

  3. Constance Cervone
    Constance Cervone says:

    As with so many watershed issues, there is always further to go toward justice in our world but it cannot be denied that this is a turn for the 2000 year old ocean liner called the Catholic Church. As one who opted to stay and work for justice and equality, I am heartened and even encouraged by Pope Francis’s comments today, in a way I have not been in my entire adult life (nearly 30 years) as a gay Catholic. I have been watching him and listening to him carefully since he was elected, sensing from the first day that he was a revolutionary and that this was where was headed. Although I have reserved comment until now, I will applaud him on this. The sin language is always disconcerting, in the liberal Catholic circles I have been worshiping with for the last 2 decades, we don’t hear or use that language regarding any subject. So that is hard to take and especially in this context. Instead, we talk about “sin” as separation from God. So, if we view his comments from that perspective, Pope Francis’s statements today are in direct contrast to the conservative notion of “sin” since he is opening his arms and the doors of the Vatican to gay people. Is where we are today, we want to be yet? Of course not. But my faith and my religion are a birthright, they are a cultural tradition felt and shared deeply by me, my family and my loved ones for generations, not to be taken or lost lightly. Have I struggled within that tradition? Profoundly. Nonetheless, given the Church’s stance on the GLBT community until now, these comments strike me in much the same way the early talk of gay marriage did – I did not dream it in my lifetime and I am hopeful and gladdened. Let us continue to pray for Pope Francis.

    And lest I neglect the equally as enormous gender issues, his talk about women today has pierced the heart of another of the Church’s ills. Perhaps we are on the road to healing on several fronts?

  4. Joseph Gentilini
    Joseph Gentilini says:

    Pretty momentous! I just hope the new pope is not murdered – it would be devastating if he was, but I still won’t be surprised if he is. Joe

    • Hugh O'Regan
      Hugh O'Regan says:

      I heard that exact same fear expressed at Mass this morning, shades of John-Paul I. This just goes to show how far our church has fallen since Good Pope John XXIII. I live in San Francisco in an inclusive Catholic parish in the middle of the Castro. (MHR) I wonder if this signals a change in direction and if it will make any difference to our homophobic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

      • Friends
        Friends says:

        As I’ve written before: he’s keeping his distance from the official Papal Apartments — where Pope JP1 was murdered — for a very good reason. He knows that he’s undermining the corrupt Vatican Mafiosi who have been engaged in sinister criminal activities since God-knows-when. Remember the Borgia Popes, and all of their illegitimate children and mistresses. What would Jesus Himself have said and done about all of this? (Re-read: “Jesus Chases The Money Changers Out Of The Tample”!)

  5. Friends
    Friends says:

    Indeed, I heard the press reports of the Pope’s “no holds barred” 84-minute press conference on the plane, and I was totally amazed and uplifted. The one big “fly in the ointment” is his declaration that Pope John Paul II had made an “infallible” pronouncement that women can never be ordained to the priesthood, and so the matter is settled. Well, not so fast. I’d love to see a scholarly historical analysis of situations in which subsequent Popes have rescinded or modified the pronouncements made by previous Popes. I believe it happened in terms of lowering the qualifying age for First Communion, in order to make it available to children, which took place under Pope St. Pius X. At the very least, Pope Francis should move to open the ordained permanent Diaconate to women — since this is completely precedented in Church history. During the first millennium of Church history, women were allowed to become deacons — and so there’s no sound reason why this well-precedented practice cannot be restored…immediately!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Pope Francis’ famous July 2013 comment referring to gay priests, Stowe suggested that this lesson be applied to […]

  2. […] reconciling words, including on LGBT issues. In 2013, the pope said his famous “Who am I to judge?” line during an interview on the return flight from Rio. He expanded these words to […]

  3. […] on July 31st.  It was on his return flight from his first WYD program that he uttered his famous “Who am I to judge?” statement, which was his first indication that LGBT issues would be treated differently under this […]

  4. […] record includes meeting with an LGBT advocate during his recent trip to Paraguay, his famous “Who am I to judge?” comment, inviting LGBT pilgrims to VIP seating during an audience in Rome, and welcoming a […]

  5. […] Hall is hopeful that Pope Francis, famous for his “Who am I to judge?” comment might create change during his visit and stop LGBT people from being forced out of […]

  6. […] religious superiors will handle openly gay priests in the era of Pope Francis, whose famous “Who am I to judge?” quote was specifically about gay […]

  7. […] excitado por compromiso pastoral que el Papa Francisco a católicos LGBT, tales como su ” ¿Quién soy yo para juzgar? ” comentar o la concesión de asientos VIP para peregrinaciones LGBT en una audiencia papal […]

  8. […] advocates excited by Pope Francis’ pastoral outreach to LGBT Catholics, such as his “Who am I to judge?” comment or the granting of VIP seats to LGBT pilgrimages at a papal […]

  9. […] Francis is making headlines again with another blockbuster interview on a plane ride home from an international visit, this one his trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. What is capturing […]

  10. […] friars from St. Anthony’s in Boston hoisted a banner with the pope’s famous “Who am I to judge?” quote in rainbow […]

  11. […] this harmful rhetoric is not unique to the Vatican only in the years before Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” comment. Cahill lists Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Archbishop John Neinstedt of St. […]

  12. […] addressing Uganda’s anti-gay law. Referencing Pope Francis’ famous statement “Who am I to judge?” in light of the violence and discrimination that inevitably results when such laws emerge, […]

  13. […] “Francis is elected pope, and says with regard to gay people, ‘Who am I to judge?’ “ […]

  14. […] to challenge the Church to expand its welcome for LGBT people and others on the margins in a plane ride from Rio, in an interview with America Magazine, in calling for a Synod on the family that will include lay […]

  15. […] as we noted a few weeks back, several Catholic legislators appealed to Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” comment to support their endorsement of marriage […]

  16. […] Chicago Tribune reported that Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” comments from July seemed to persuade some Catholic lawmakers to vote in favor of marriage equality.  The […]

  17. […] handful of olive branches to the LGBT community has changed the tone by his comment “Who am I to judge?“, his America interview, or his handwritten note to gay Catholics in Italy. Leaders in […]

  18. […] With LGBT rights expanding in the US and Pope Francis preaching words of welcome, the moment is prime for the justice to reconsider how he speaks about and interacts with gay people. Perhaps acknowledging those he knows who are LGBT identified is a start. Perhaps he could consider aspects of his Catholic faith, like the dignity of each person and the common good pf all, when it comes to homosexuality. Perhaps he could simply start by echoing Pope Francis’ words in interviews and say, “Who am I to judge?“ […]

  19. […] lesbian Catholics in Italy, and the original letter may have prompted the pope’s recent warm remarks on LGBT […]

  20. […] only do we have Pope Francis’ recent “Who am I to judge?” comment and his positive remarks in theJesuit magazines interview, but earlier this year […]

  21. […] Francis’ interview last week reiterated his July comments about gay priests, “Who am I to judge?” In light of all this, many Catholics wonder how this new pope will lead on LGBT issues and whether […]

  22. […] happened after the pope’s “Who am I to judge?” remark of mid-summer, some commentators have pointed out again after his America interview that […]

  23. […] we have seen him take the focus off marriage equality opposition by the Vatican.  His comments on not judging gay priests have renewed the hope of many who work and pray for LGBT equality.  He has provided a different […]

  24. […] the question of why Catholic bishops did not respond more positively to Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” remarks in July. Recent comments by Poland’s leading Catholic figure are an example […]

  25. […] is a time in which Pope Francis can ask, “Who am I to judge” gays and lesbians of good will, and have it largely well received among his followers—Putin is […]

  26. […] acclaimed comment was the pope’s response to a journalist’s question about a ‘gay lobby’ in the Church, and Fr. Beto offers his own views on this perennial […]

  27. […] was denied Communion by their pastor, just about the same time that Pope Francis made his “Who am I to judge?” comments returning from World Youth Day. The same priest who denied this couple communion […]

  28. […] responding to Pope Francis’ positive comments about gay people last week, many bishops and dioceses expressed surprise that people did not know that the Catholic […]

  29. […] Francis was not the only Jesuit this week who made news about positive statements on LGBT issues.  The folks at Ignatian News Network, a California-based Jesuit production company, […]

  30. […] with Catholic LGBT news and commentary than in the last two days as articles keep popping up about Pope Francis’ statement which was heard around the gay and Catholic world.  Not even the Supreme Court’s marriage […]

  31. […] Pope Francis’ comments on accepting gay priests has rocked the Catholic world, yet even progressive Catholics disagree on the import of his statement.   Was it just a change of tone, not substance?  Was it too little, too late?  Will he follow through with action or was this statement just for show? […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *