Pope Francis Endorses Bans on Pro-LGBT Laws in Slovakia

Pope Francis

While addressing a group of pilgrims from Slovakia during the papal audience this past Wednesday, Pope Francis gave his blessing to those working against a proposed pro-LGBT law in that country.

Speaking about Slovakia’s referendum on marriage and adoption by same-gender couples which will take place this Saturday, Buzzfeed quotes the pope as saying:

” ‘I greet the pilgrims from Slovakia and, through them, 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.’ “

The referendum will focus on three questions: banning same-gender marriage, banning adoption by same-gender couples, and allowing parents to withdraw their children from sex education classes.

The vote comes after legislators successfully banned marriage equality last June in a nation where 62% of the population are Catholic. These remarks place the pope in the midst of the debate about the Catholic Church’s involvement in these matters, and they are the first ones directed specifically toward one nation’s current voting.

Critics accuse the Conference of Slovak Bishops of engineering the referendum, pointing to public statements and fundraising for an anti-gay group, Alliance for Family, as evidence. The bishops’ spokesperson denied these claims, calling the vote “an initiative of civil society” and claiming ignorance about the fundraising ties. Still, Martin Macko, head of the Slovakian LGBT rights group Inokost, criticized this involvement:

“For first time in Slovak modern history the Catholic Church is heavily involved in political campaign.”

The referendum will not necessarily have an easy passage because the nation’s requires that a minimum of 50% of eligible voters participate for it to become law.

Advocate.com reported the reactions of two Catholic LGBT advocates to this latest papal news:

“American Catholic advocates for LGBT equality expressed disappointment with the pope’s endorsement of the ballot questions. ‘Pope Francis has made some amazing gestures of openness and welcome to LGBT people, but a statement like this shows that he still has a lot to learn,’ Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, told The Advocate.

“ ‘It’s pretty clear that since the synod on the family last fall … the Catholic right has really gotten to the Vatican and to Pope Francis,’ said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, in an Advocate interview. ‘It’s really crushing to a lot of people who were hoping to see policy change.’

“The pope needs to hear from Catholics in same-sex unions as well as theologians and laypeople who support LGBT equality if anything is going to change, both activists said. ‘The official Catholic teaching on marriage is really out of step with what most Catholic theologians think and write today,’ DeBernardo said.

“The second session of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, a follow-up to last fall’s event, will be held in Rome in October, and DeBernardo expressed the hope that the pope would meet with same-sex couples there, so he would be talking with them instead of about them. Duddy-Burke added that the World Meeting of Families in September in Philadelphia, which Pope Francis is set to attend, would provide opportunities for him to meet with same-sex couples and equality supporters.”

Pope Francis’ comments add to his ambiguous record on LGBT issues, with recent contrasts including his meeting with a transgender man while calling on Catholics to oppose ideological colonization while in the Philippines. While his welcoming words and pastoral moments are a breath of fresh air in the church’s life, his support for anti-LGBT civil laws rapidly expanding across the world are in opposition to his emphasis on justice and mercy. Caring for sexual and gender-diverse minorities requires more than kind words and touching individual moments; it requires structural justice, too.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

17 replies
  1. Brian Kneeland
    Brian Kneeland says:

    The pope has signaled that we LGBT people are no longer welcome in the church. At my age I knew that some bishops were speaking this way – but now this pope has sealed the fact that because I married the man of my dreams I am not welcome anymore. My whole life as a Catholic seems to be a waste – yet I know theology and I know my conscience is clear in this matter. I wish I could sit and speak with him and tell him what ministry I have performed in the church – and how my gifts are so important to the faith life of others. Sadly, this man is just proving he is a solid part of the old boys club and not really as pastoral as he has tried to portray! I am horribly saddened by his actions and wonder if I should continue to worship and contribute as a catholic any longer!

    • Kat
      Kat says:

      I am so sorry Brian. It may be time for all of us to explore new roads and grow in faith with the love of jesus leading the way. God bless you,

    • Marc
      Marc says:

      I am over confused by his mixed messages on LGBTQ topics . Sometimes he’s the Pope that the world needed to open the eyes of Christanity on Homosexuality , and sometimes he’s acting like all the homophobic priests . Why is he supporting anti-LGBTQ laws ? Are gay marriages threatening the “family ” concept ? Let him see the Broken families out there . Families with domestic violence . Families with an adulterer . Why they happen ? Because of the lack of LOVE . In mostly all gay relationships LOVE is present , and they can form a completely healthy family .

  2. Friends
    Friends says:

    Sadly, I think Francis and Brian are both correct: Pope SFrancis is either not hearing, or not paying attention to, the FACTS of life and love and family which are being presented to him by deeply committed Catholic GLBT folks. I agree with Bob S. and Francis D. that the most promising way to rectify this totally unacceptable situation is to petition insistently for a private audience and conversation with him. Short of all of us becoming Episcopalians en masse, I don’t see what else will fix the problem.

  3. Believe in God
    Believe in God says:

    @Brian: It is my hope and prayer that you worship and contribute as a Catholic out of love for God, who created and loves you where you are at but is always gently and lovingly prodding you to strive towards Sainthood and eternal life with Him, which means dying to self (your own will) and humbly turning your heart and soul over to Him. It is in dying to self that we are born in Christ.

    Faith, Hope and Love in Christ,

    • Larry
      Larry says:

      Tori, you don’t have to be a Catholic to have God love you and have a relationship with Him. In fact, I suggest that if being Catholic takes you farther from God because of the abusive actions of the hierarchy then you have a duty to leave the Catholic church and find a better faith community.

  4. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    While this is disappointing, some may be overreacting. Remember, he was speaking to Slovakians, not Americans. Sorry, it’s not always all about us.

    Same sex marriage and adoption by same sex couples is a rather recent civil phenomenon. To expect him to see everything with American eyes is not realistic.

    Further, and maybe more important, to expect him to know what is going on throughout the world is beyond realistic. He relies on what the bishops of a country tell him, then discerns in the light of the Gospel what can and cannot be accomplished. Our role must be to humbly, peacefully and persistently pursue truth and justice with our own bishops, then trust where the Spirit leads.

    Social change happens over the long haul, it cannot be legislated or radically altered over night. While disappointed, I commend him for not moving too fast. Looking at the progress in one generation of a 2000 year old institution is already phenomenal. Keep in mind he leads ALL the Church, that includes those areas of the world (and our own society!) who see him as extremely progressive, even heretical, for offering any dignity to LGBT people.

    We need to work with our own bishops, and not get in a tizzy or distracted about what is taking place in a foreign country. Do we want people in Africa telling the pope how he should respond to people in the US? Certainly not! His effort at decentralizing authority is our best way forward.

    Even righteous anger must not result in disengagement. Pray, stay the course and trust that the righteousness which can only be bestowed by the Holy Spirit is leading the whole Church in the direction we need to go, and the pace the world needs to go.

    “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

  5. Larry
    Larry says:

    But you forget Kevin that what the Pope says to Slovakians is used by anti-gay forces around the world. If in fact the Pope was addressing a specific situation in one country he should have been clear. Now his “anti gay” remarks will be used as his general opinion.

    • Kevin
      Kevin says:

      This does demonstrate how people misuse not only the worlds but an image of the pope to further their cause. The Slovakian Bishops have stated that they had nothing to do with this and that whomever sponsored these billboards is using the pope’s photo without permission. In fact they have publicly told the group who sponsored these billboards that they cannot use the word “Catholic” in their name. But we know how tumultuous that topics is…


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] the United States and Italy. But he involved himself when LGBT issues were being debated in Slovakia and Slovenia. This bifurcated response is […]

  2. […] similar moment happened in February 2015 when the pontiff exhorted pilgrims from Slovakia to “continue their efforts in defense of the family,”  just days before an unsuccessful referendum in that nation against equal marriage and […]

  3. […] for same-gender marriage (he spoke out specifically on the matter when it was being discussed in Slovakia and Slovenia),  his latest statement may be his most specific statement on the matter as a […]

  4. […] first time using a general audience to weigh in on marriage equality. In February, the pontiff endorsed an effort in Slovakia to ban equal marriage and adoption rights, as well as parental consent laws regarding sexual […]

  5. […] for all his welcome, has not fully embraced LGBT issues.  He has opposed marriage equality and adoption rights for lesbian and gay couples.  He has promoted the concept of  gender complementarity as a […]

  6. […] Catholic bishops in Slovakia supported the referendum’s goals, and last week at the Vatican, Pope Francis encouraged a group of Slovakian pilgrims “to continue their efforts in defense […]

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