Pope Francis’ Welcome Signals a New Dawn of Hope for LGBT People and Allies

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ interview in America magazine signals a new dawn of hope and promise for LGBT Catholics and their supporters.  Pope Francis’ words and example have opened up new opportunities for the Catholic Church to welcome and dialogue with LGBT people.  His words will give courage and hope to thousands of pastoral ministers and Catholic faithful who have been doing this work for many decades, but who have often received penalties and discouragements from church leaders who did not share this pope’s broad vision.  His message initiates a new day for a Catholic Church that is welcoming  to all.

In the interview, Francis answers one of the most vexing questions since he was elected to the Catholic church’s highest office:  Has his positive attitude toward LGBT issues and his penchant for not mentioning them controversially been intentional or circumstantial?

In the interview, released today, he has let the world know that his approach has definitely been intentional, signaling a new direction in the way the papacy addresses these topics.

His direct response to that question was answered by him:

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

““The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things. . . . We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

This answer reflects not only good theology, but it reflects the pastoral wisdom that countless priests, nuns, deacons, and lay people have been practicing for decades in terms of their outreach to LGBT people.  In parishes, college campuses, and faith communities, outreach to LGBT people has always been done in noting the full context of their lives, not just the sexual arena.  Pastoral ministers have realized that focusing on the sexual arena was not only demeaning, but was spiritually deadening to both LGBT people and the entire faith community.

But the pope went further in his interview, too. The pope was asked how the Church can respond pastorally to marginalized groups, including same-sex couples.  What is remarkable about his answer is that it is the first time that a pope has offered direction on pastoral care of LGBT people that did not focus solely on sexual behavior. The pope said:

“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.”

The pope’s interview, which should be read in its entirety, did not focus on LGBT issues.  Instead it presents a beautiful picture of a humble, pastoral leader who seems willing to learn from all members of the Church.  In a discussion on the nature of the Church, he referred to it in the way that Vatican II did, as not just the hierarchy but the entire people of God:

“The image of the church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God. This is the definition I often use, and then there is that image from the Second Vatican Council’s ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’ (No. 12). Belonging to a people has a strong theological value. In the history of salvation, God has saved a people. There is no full identity without belonging to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships.

“The people itself constitutes a subject. And the church is the people of God on the journey through history, with joys and sorrows. Thinking with the church, therefore, is my way of being a part of this people. . . . When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit. So this thinking with the church does not concern theologians only.”

And he emphasized that the church is big enough to welcome ALL kinds of people.  This is directly opposite from Pope Benedict XVI’s approach when he said that he wanted to purify the church, even if that meant having a much smaller institution.  Pope Francis said:

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful.”

Millions of Catholics, and many others, are eager to be part of such a church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

New York Times: Pope Bluntly Faults Church’s Focus on Gays and Abortion

New Ways Ministry Says “#FollowFrancis”

36 replies
    VERNON MEYER says:

    are aware that Bishop Olmsted is still promoting Courage and gay reparative therapy? So for all the openness of the Pope, bishops and priests are still not accepting and still trying to change people! Date: Thu, 19 Sep 2013 17:03:35 +0000 To: [email protected]

  2. pjnugent
    pjnugent says:

    “…even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards.” It has already fallen. Francis is picking up the pieces and rebuilding as his namesake did.

  3. John Steinson
    John Steinson says:

    I’m not quite sure what the LGBT community is looking for the Church to say or do. The Pope has never said sex between 2 men is acceptable and he never will. Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome has clearly stated what I’m sure the Pope believes:

    “First of all, I would underline the need for much prayer and fasting. The alarming rapidity of the realization of the homosexual agenda ought to awaken all of us and frighten us with regard to the future of our nation. This is a work of deceit, a lie about the most fundamental aspect of our human nature, our human sexuality, which after life itself defines us. There is only one place these types of lies come from, namely Satan. It is a diabolical situation which is aimed at destroying individuals, families, and eventually our nation.

    How did we get to this point? The fact that these kinds of “ arrangements” are made legal is a manifestation of a culture of death, of an anti- life and anti- family culture which has existed in our nation now for some time. We as Catholics have not properly combated it because we have not been taught our Catholic Faith, especially in the depth needed to address these grave evils of our time. This is a failure of catechesis both of children and young people that has been going on for fifty years. It is being addressed, but it needs much more radical attention. I can say this because I was the bishop of two different dioceses.

    After fifty years of this, we have many adult voters who support politicians with immoral positions because they do not know their Catholic Faith and its teaching with regard to same- sex attraction and the inherent disorder of sexual relations between two persons of the same sex. Therefore, they are not able to defend the Catholic Faith in this matter.

    What has also contributed greatly to the situation is an exaltation of the virtue of tolerance which is falsely seen as the virtue which governs all other virtues. In other words, we should tolerate other people in their immoral actions to the extent that we seem also to accept the moral wrong. Tolerance is a virtue, but it is certainly not the principal virtue; the principal virtue is charity. Charity means speaking the truth, especially the truth about human life and human sexuality. While we love the individual, we desire only the best for one who suffers from an inclination to engage in sexual relations with a person of the same sex. We must abhor the actions themselves because they are contrary to nature itself as God has created us.

    The virtue of charity leads us to be kind and understanding to the individual, but also to be firm and steadfast in opposing the evil itself. This confusion is widespread. I have encountered it many times myself as a priest and bishop. It is something we simply need to address. There is far too much silence — people do not want to talk about it because the topic is not “ politically correct.” But we cannot be silent any longer or we will find ourselves in a situation that will be very difficult to reverse.”

    What’s your opinion of Cardinal Burke’s statements?

    • Karyn Jacobs
      Karyn Jacobs says:

      Where is the “love” and openness to listen in that statement ? condemnation and judgement is all I see…I hope Cardinal Burke is retired.

      • G.Paul
        G.Paul says:

        Love is found in truth. I see the Pope’s words as beautiful and full of love, however, the good Cardinal also speaks with love. It is not hate if you hear what you do not want to hear, nor is it judgement. Truth is truth, it does not change with the times. Peace.

  4. looking4adventure
    looking4adventure says:

    I ask Pope Francis about the enormous changes occurring in society and the way human beings are reinterpreting themselves. At this point he gets up and goes to get the breviary from his desk. It is in Latin, now worn from use. He opens to the Office of Readings for Friday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time and reads me a passage from the Commonitorium Primum of St. Vincent of Lerins: “Even the dogma of the Christian religion must follow these laws, consolidating over the years, developing over time, deepening with age.”

    The pope comments: “St. Vincent of Lerins makes a comparison between the biological development of man and the transmission from one era to another of the deposit of faith, which grows and is strengthened with time. Here, human self-understanding changes with time and so also human consciousness deepens. Let us think of when slavery was accepted or the death penalty was allowed without any problem. So we grow in the understanding of the truth. Exegetes and theologians help the church to mature in her own judgment. Even the other sciences and their development help the church in its growth in understanding. There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning. The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong.

    “After all, in every age of history, humans try to understand and express themselves better. So human beings in time change the way they perceive themselves. It’s one thing for a man who expresses himself by carving the ‘Winged Victory of Samothrace,’ yet another for Caravaggio, Chagall and yet another still for Dalí. Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning.

  5. Friends
    Friends says:

    I wouldn’t be so quick to attribute Cardinal Burke’s own private opinions to Pope Francis himself. It’s fascinating to note that Pope Emeritus Benedict has been quoted as saying that he resigned the Papacy because Jesus Himself appeared to him, and told him to resign. If indeed that’s what happened, it clearly happened for a good reason. Pope Francis is making a fresh start on the Pastoral Mission and Outreach of the Church. Godspeed and all blessings to him.

  6. Buddy
    Buddy says:

    Pope Francis made the correct decission removing Cardinal Burke. He should also get rid of the Curia and only keep a few Lawyers around out of the high court in the Vatican. He is moving the work of the Vatican out of the Vatican to the people who are involved in the church and should set up a simple structure to hear the parishioners of our church. Cardinal Burke should be reduced to a Parish Priest and sent back to St. Stanislous Church in St. Louis Missouri to restore it and it Parishioners back to the Roman Catholic Church he evicted them from. He Supressed and Excommunicated the Church and all of it’s Parishioners over the sale of land he did not own. There is a legal definition of what he attempted to do but was stopped by a civil court Judge that ruled in favovor of it’s Parishioners. But as of today they all are still excommunicated. That Church was established and it’s Management approved by then Bishop of St Louis Bishop Kenndrick in the 1800’s. It is the Pride of the Polish Parishioners who came and settled in the area since the 1800’s.
    Pope francis should also be aware of a backlash of his actions against the curia and Cardinal Burke that is trying real hard to be the next Pope.

  7. Buddy
    Buddy says:

    Looking ladyventure. In your future conversations with Pope Francis why dont you ask him to have Cardinal Burke return to St. Stanislous Church in St. Louis Missouri and have him remove the excommunacation and supression he placed on all of the Parishioners of that church. Also why does he not respond to mail ??

  8. Buddy
    Buddy says:

    Letter writing revolution…Not so fast there seems to be readers at the Vatican. I dont believe the Pope gets all the mail just what the readers want him to respond to and what not ???seems like he is being supressed; Hope not but I have written about 4 letters with no responce recieved. The subject was Cardinal Burke and St Stanislous Church in St. Louis Missouri. The text concentrated on Excommunication and Supression of all the Parishioners of st Stans Chuirch. No Reply. It couldnt be Political Pressure on responces that could be provided by CB..


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