Juan Carlos Cruz commented about Francis and his words of welcome:
“‘I saw a compassionate man, I saw someone who was caring for someone, not worrying about if we are gay, straight, brown, white. He was hearing from someone who has been hurt, abused. . .
“‘There is no reason why every single pastor from the pope down cannot be welcoming to everybody. I think gay people in general have been hurt enough, and they are not second class and they deserve the same love and respect as anyone else. . .Nobody wants special treatment. Nobody.”
“‘Welcoming would be just integrating everybody into this great big community, that has people from every different walk of life, every different ethnicity, every different sexual orientation, every different nationality. . .That is what Catholic means.'”
Cruz was clear that “the ideal would be to obviously change the teaching,” but for now, the process of encounters between LGBT people and church leaders is a positive step. He added that, despite claims by some church leaders that homophobia does not exist, “I think there is plenty of homophobia to go around, in the church, and it’s very sad.”
Cruz also spoke about being a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, and how the path to healing and accountability has been more difficult because of his sexual orientation. America reported:
“[Cruz] said he told the pope that when he came forward with allegations of sexual abuse, leaders in the Chilean church, including Cardinal Javier Errazuriz, a member of the pope’s advisory council, said that because Mr. Cruz is gay, he was not a legitimate victim of abuse because he may have ‘liked’ it.
“This, he said, appeared to move the pope.
“‘I think the pope reacted to all that by just being the compassionate man he is,’ Mr. Cruz said.”
Letters of resignation submitted by all the bishops in Chile, where Cruz is from, could be a helpful step and potentially “the beginning of the end of this culture of cover up among bishops,” he said.
On a more positive note, Cruz told America that after deciding to share part of his conversation with Pope Francis, he “never expected this to become such a big topic,” but began receiving all kinds of letters and tweets with the message, “This has changed my life.” That healing is precisely why Cruz shared the story in the first place. As for his ongoing place in the Church today:
“Mr. Cruz said he still practices his Catholic faith, vowing early on during his fight for justice that he was not ‘going to let them win. They can hurt me in all kinds of ways, these bishops, but what I won’t let them do is take away something so precious to me, which is my faith.’
“‘I am Catholic. I go to church. I kept my faith when all odds were against it, and I thank God for that because it has sustained me to make me the person I am today,’ he said.”
Catholics have struggled to make sense of where Pope Francis really stands on homosexuality. Reactions were mixed about his comments to Cruz, and that same week news broke that Pope Francis reaffirmed a ban on gay men being accepted to the priesthood. One scholar has suggested that the pope should be foremost understood as a spiritual director rather than enforcer of doctrine, but for many Catholics, Francis’ condemnations of gender ideology and marriage equality are what define his papacy on LGBT issues. You can decide for yourself whether Francis has been positive, negative, or somewhere in between on such issues using New Ways Ministry’s timeline “The Many Faces of Pope Francis.”
But one thing is clear: for Juan Carlos Cruz, the pope is a compassionate man who cares deeply for people he encounters, and, if nothing else, that care can be a starting point and model of welcome for all church leaders to follow.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 1, 2018
National Catholic Reporter, “Weighing responses to Francis’ ‘God made you like this’ comment“