Throughout the papacy of Pope Francis, we’ve come to recognize that his visits to other countries are never over once his plane leaves the land. Some of his most important statements have been made during the in-flight press conferences he has during his trip home from Rome. His trip to Ireland was no exception.
On the return flight home from the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis spoke with journalists aboard the plane, covering a variety of topics, though mostly focusing on the sex abuse crisis. He made his first public statement concerning Archbishop Vigano’s letter which hurled accusations against him. The National Catholic Reporter recorded his comments:
“Asked about the letter from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano in a press conference aboard the Aug. 26 flight back to Rome after a two-day visit to Ireland, Francis advised journalists to ‘read the statement attentively and make your own judgment.’
” ‘I will not say a single word on this,’ the pope said of the letter. ‘I think this statement speaks for itself, and you have the sufficient journalistic capacity to draw conclusions.’
” ‘When some time passes and you have your conclusions, maybe I will speak,’ said Francis. ‘But I would like that your professional maturity carries out this task.’
[For New Ways Ministry’s response to Vigano’s letter, click here.]
The National Catholic Reporter also recorded his advice to parents who learn they have a gay or lesbian child.
“At the end of the press conference, Francis was asked what advice he might give to a father or mother whose son or daughter tells the family that they are gay.
” ‘I would say first to pray,’ the pope responded. ‘Do not condemn. Dialogue. Understand. Make space for the son or daughter; make space so they express themselves.’
” ‘I would never say that silence is a solution,’ the pope continued. ‘Ignoring a son or daughter with homosexual tendencies is to neglect giving them paternity and maternity.’
“Suggesting a conversation the parent might have with their child, Francis offered: ‘You are my son. You are my daughter, as you are. I am your father, or mother. Let’s talk.’ “
” ‘If you, mother or father, don’t know how to do it, ask for help, but always in dialogue,’ Francis advised.
” ‘That child has the right to a family,’ he said. ‘Don’t chase them away from the family.’ “
The pope’s advice is similar to the advice has been going to church leaders and pastoral minister who encounter LGBT people: Listen. Don’t break off relationship. Continue to love. Allow the person to speak. His reference to “homosexual tendencies” to describe a person with a gay or lesbian orientation is a common reference some church leaders use. Unfortunately, it is not the way that the major of lesbian and gay people refer to themselves. And even more problematic, the term seems to imply that homosexuality is about behavior and actions, not about the constitutional way someone was created by God to be in relationship with other people and to express and receive love.
Another report, on Father James Martin’s Facebook page, added the following quotation from the pope’s comments about gay/lesbian children:
“Then, at what age does this concern (‘inquietudine’) of the child express itself? Its important. One thing is when it shows itself in a child. There are many things one can do with psychiatry, to understand things. Another thing is when it shows itself after 20 years of age or so. “
As far as I can understand this quotation, it seems that the pope is saying that parents should respond in ways that are age-appropriate to their children. And he appears to be recommending that they consult psychological information, not for attempting “conversion” therapy, but to understand what homosexuality and sexual orientation are. It’s good that a church leader acknowledges and recommends seeking advice from the sciences, and not to rely solely on misconceptions and common myths and assumptions.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, August 27, 2018