Catholic groups have reacted strongly against Pope Francis’ recent claim that only heterosexual couples and their children constitute a real family, remarks that further complicate the pope’s record on LGBT issues.
Pink News reported that Pope Francis made some unscripted remarks at a meeting of the Forum delle Famiglie, an organization for lay Catholics in Italy. Francis said:
“‘It is painful to say this today: People speak of varied families, of various kinds of family [. . .but]the family [as] man and woman in the image of God is the only one.'”
DignityUSA haslaunched a petition against the pope’s comments to tell Francis that “love makes a family,” and also invite LGBT people to upload photos of their families. Marianne Duddy-Burke, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement:
“Once again, the Pope is making a sweeping statement that is not grounded in reality, or even in good theology. Humans form families in a myriad of ways. For the Pope to say that only one model can reflect the Divine image is wrong and damaging to countless people all across the globe. . .As a married lesbian raising two adopted children, I am reacting very personally. I hear the Pope as saying my family—and millions of others—lack sacredness and validity. That is painful and wrong. I welcome the Pope to spend a single day in our home, and I truly believe he would experience a ‘real’ family.”
New Ways Ministry encourages our readers to support the petition.
We Are Church Ireland released a statement saying it was “appalled and alarmed” by the pope’s words, and suggested the remarks “clearly reveal the Pope’s belief that gay couples are not legitimate families.” Spokesperson Brendan Butler commented:
“This exclusion from and further marginalisation of LGBTQI families in the life of the Catholic Church by Pope Francis leaves us with very little hope that LGBTQI families will be included as equal participants at the forthcoming World Meeting of Families being held in Dublin next August. Unless LGBTQI families are included in this World Meeting it will be seen as a contradiction of Gospel values. This reinforcement of anti – LGBTQI attitudes and the refusal to recognise LGBTQI families as true Catholic families by Pope Francis will be treated with incredulity and dismay by the Catholic faithful. Pope Francis should meet with and listen to LGBTQI families experiences of loving family life.”
Cammini di Speranza, a group of LGBT Christians in Italy, released its own statement directed at Pope Francis. The group said they were “there in spirit” at the Forum delle Famiglie meeting because in their every day lives, LGBT people have emotional relationships entirely consistent with how the pope described family. The statement continued:
“We were there because we too, homosexual and [transgender] people, when we live with discernment, conviction and commitment, we put our emotional relationships in everyday life [in ways] that you have delicately described speaking of family: we look in the eyes, we walk together, we fight, we make peace, we have patience, we are in love, we love each other. . .
“This is why we also feel ‘the image of God’ when we love each other, when we must find a passage through a forest of brambles for our affections. We exist. We exist as individuals. We exist as couples. We exist as families. And fortunately we have now found the courage to be active agents for the life of Catholic communities. We wish to participate, be present. To not live in separate, protected places. We want to mix, give and take. Because we are confident in the fact that only by the meeting between the differences of each other can new ferments be born.”
Ruby Almeida, co-chair of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, said in a statement:
“Despite these contradictory statements from Pope Francis, we as LGBTI Catholics see this as our challenge to continue to have a dialogue with the Church about the lived lives of our LGBTI families around the world. We strive especially to give visibility to LGBTI Catholic couples that live faithful lives in loving relationships based on fidelity, integrity and respect.”
Pope Francis’ latest remarks continue his mixed record on LGBT issues. In just a three months, the pope has met with a French student who was severely injured while defending a gay couple, told a Chilean gay man that “God made you like this,” allegedly affirmed a French priest’s blessing of same-gender couples, and warned Italy’s bishops against admitting gay men to the priesthood. (For a full timeline of Pope Francis’ LGBT-related actions and statements since his 2013 election, click here). With such seemingly incongruent acts, it is hard to understand where Pope Francis really stands when it comes to LGBT inclusion and equality.
But perhaps rather than reading tea leaves he needs to be simply taken at his word rather than the words of other people (accounts by the French priest and by the Chilean gay man mentioned above were never confirmed by the Vatican). Francis’ public statements about LGBT families have been negative, while affirming messages attributed to him come only from second and third-hand reports of private meetings. If Pope Francis truly believes that God makes people lesbian and gay and that same-gender couples can be blessed, he needs to make these beliefs known publicly. Otherwise, all Catholics have for certain from the pope are mostly messages of exclusion like his recent words to the Forum delle Famiglie.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 20, 2018