Pope Calls for Church to Apologize to LGBT People and Others Who Have Been Marginalized

The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, released on June 26, 2016, in response to Pope Francis’ call for the Church to apologize to groups it has harmed.

No pope has said more welcoming words to LGBT people than Pope Francis’ recommendation today that the Church–indeed all Christians–should apologize for the harm religious traditions have caused to LGBT people.  The pope’s statement was simple, yet powerful, and it fell from his lips so easily.  The simplicity of his language will provide an immense blessing of healing and reconciliation to LGBT people and Catholics who support them, who have been waiting decades to hear such a simple, honest statement from the Vatican.

[You can read the pope’s statement by clicking here.]


Pope Francis when asked about the mass shooting in Orlando

This step by Pope Francis shows that Church leaders can and should admit when they have been wrong, especially when their wrongs cause people tremendous and unnecessary harm.  His message signals a major change in attitude for an institution that has a terrible history of ever admitting that it has done something wrong.  Admitting an error is healing not just for the harmed people to whom an apology is issued, but to the apologizer, too.  Great healing can come from this statement not just for LGBT people, but also for Church leaders who will follow the Pope’s example.

Indeed, some Catholic leaders have already acknowledged the pain that the Church has caused sexual and gender minorities.  When the person in charge sets the tone for such apologies, more leaders and people will be moved to follow suit.

In calling for an apology, Pope Francis said that he affirmed the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church about gay and lesbian people, but, significantly, he emphasized the social justice teaching about condemning prejudice and discrimination against them. Few church leaders ever think of emphasizing the teaching against harming LGBT people, ignoring it to amplify the teaching against sexually engaged homosexual relationships.

We hope and pray that the pope and other church leaders issue formal statements of apology, and, more importantly, offer gestures of reconciliation for LGBT people. In the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando, only a handful of Catholic bishops even acknowledge that there was an LGBT dimension to the incident.  A few, like Bishop Robert Lynch, not only expressed sympathy for the LGBT victims, but  also acknowledged that the Church’s teaching and language too often fostered anti-LGBT sentiments.  Pope Francis’ statement shows support for Bishop Lynch’s approach.

Most welcome, too, was the fact that his call for apologies to gay people, also included a call to apologize to others that the Church has harmed: women, the poor, the divorced, and children forced to work.

Pope Francis’ comments did not come out of a vacuum, but out of the decades of work that Catholics have been doing to remind Church leaders that the Church was too often complicit in the social prejudice and physical harm that LGBT people experience.  The prayers, witness, work, and ministry of so many dedicated Catholics has finally risen to the top of the hierarchy and is starting to be heard and enacted.

For some LGBT people who have been so wounded and bruised by Catholic leaders’ negative messages, the pope’s statement may seem like too little, too late.  While indeed we have waited a long time for an opening like this, I think it is important to rejoice at this step forward. We must work and pray to make sure that the next steps take place much quicker.   Among those next steps are more dialogue between Church leaders and LGBT people.  Equally needed is a serious re-evaluation of the hierarchy’s disapproval of committed sexual relationships of lesbian, bisexual, and gay couples, as well as re-thinking the denigrating language Church leaders often use to describe transgender identities.

New Ways Ministry thanks Pope Francis for his example of Christian humility, and we encourage him to continue to pave the way for even greater changes for LGBT people and the Catholic Church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry






22 replies
  1. Bishop Carlos A Florido, osf
    Bishop Carlos A Florido, osf says:

    Those are most welcome news! I was not sure that it would happen. I am extremely thankful that Francis listened to the voice of the Spirit and acted accordingly. In a few minutes, I will be celebrating a Eucharist of thanksgiving. Pax et bonum

  2. Paula Mattras
    Paula Mattras says:

    Halleluiah! And in no small measure is this due to the diligent work that has been done by New Ways Ministry – it had to be noticed. The sincerity, the years of devotion to our faith in spite of non-support, the tireless and unrelenting research and reporting, gathering evidence in every field………all of it played a huge part – that only makes sense. So, Frank, Sister Jeannine and all who have been involved, thank you from the bottom of my heart, a mother of a gay son who has remained faithful in spite of former rejection by the church. A new day is dawning…….actually, has arrived. God bless us – every one!

  3. bjmonda
    bjmonda says:

    Yes, this is great news BUT we still need a change in doctrine and the catechism. Let’s not be too greatfull lest they take 600 years to make a change.

    • Kathleen
      Kathleen says:

      Yes. Good words and good works are two different things. How can Pope Francis be sorry for the harm the Catholic Church has done to lgbt people and still support the Catechism with 2357-59 in there?
      Cat 2357-59 is awful and continues its wrong and harmful teaching about lgbt people every day! Pope Francis words mean nothing as long as 2357-59 remain in tact as official Catholic teaching. I wish I felt hope in Pope Francis words, but I can’t.

  4. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    Until the October 1986 multi-page letter from the Congregation of the Faithful calling LGBT people disordered and many other terrible things has been denounced for the hateful thing it is, until LGBT groups will be welcomed to use Church facilities, until all of the LGBT people who have been fired from Church related jobs for being themselves and loving those they feel called to have been re-hired, until the request for Sr. Jeannine’s work will not be raised against the Loretto community, what the Pope said is worthless. An apology without substance is breath in the wind – gone before it reaches the hearer.

  5. Larry
    Larry says:

    Tom Bower’s comments above are absolutely correct. The article in Bondings notes specifically that the Pope reaffirmed the Catholic Catechism and the Church’s teaching on the LGBT community which means we are still officially intrinsically disordered and must fight to overcome our “SSA” but we should not be discriminated against or killed [except of course on the African Continent which Pope Francis continues to silently assent to].

    This is an old trick. When authority finds itself in a tough spot with a light shinning on its duplicity and its active role in harming people, it apologizes but only with words. Nothing really changes. If Pope Francis wanted to put some teeth in his public relations, he could easily do so. So what he is really doing is just slapping another smiley face on the horrors that the RC church does everyday and hoping that the gays will be so happy that he suggested an apology they will not notice that neither he nor the Church will be dong anything substantive [as usual].

  6. Brian Kneeland
    Brian Kneeland says:

    I hope he communicates this loudly to the U.S. bishops -most of them are so discriminatory 0 and it needs to stop!

  7. Brenda Ann Eckels, aMGC
    Brenda Ann Eckels, aMGC says:

    Hmmmm, nope. Cardinal Sarah still has his red hat.

    Calling on all of US “other” Catholics and other Christians to apologize while not defrocking Sarah and packing him over to the Haugue for crimes against humanity for that speech and everything else he has said? Yeah, I don’t think so!
    Enough telling everyone else what to do Francis. Clean your own d&%n house already.
    Then you can make sound bites for the media.

    This is nothing more than Cesear Francis throwing a few shiny coins to the crowd from the balcony.
    Don’t kill yourselves gushing over what he says, or grasping for one of those few shiny coins.

    No more words. Action. Only praise action.

  8. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    This is welcome indeed. But why an off the cuff remark on a plane again? Was this just in response to a reporter or was this something he has been mulling over ? I am glad he said what he has but this must be put into action. The Church has to work to re gain our trust. Also, how will this impact the bishop in The Dominican Republic who has assailed Ambassador Brewster ? How will our own USCCB handle this? The proof is in the pudding.

  9. John Raab
    John Raab says:

    What a blessing for Gay Pride Sunday! And for the Celebration of 30 years of Los Angeles Archdiocesan Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons!

  10. Bill Freeman
    Bill Freeman says:

    I get it. He is a nice, grandfatherly figure. But an apology for causing such hatred, persecution, bigotry and death? How about silence and penance for the next 50 years? Keep your prayers.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  5. […] Bondings 2.0 will update readers if more reactions and responses become available in the coming days. To read previous reactions, please click here. To read New Ways Ministry’s statement in response to the Pope’s message, please click here. […]

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  7. […] Source: Pope Calls for Church to Apologize to LGBT People and Others Who Have Been Marginalized […]

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