Pope Francis again has opined about homosexuality in a seemingly positive, but still ambiguous, manner during a recent interview.
The journalist, Jordi Evole of La Sexta, a publication in Spain, asked Francis about two previous remarks the pope had made about sexuality: his famous “Who am I to judge?” in 2013 and his comment last year which some interpreted as an endorsement of conversion therapy. Of the latter remark, Crux reported on how in his latest comments, Pope Francis tried to clarify his remark last year about psychological help:
“Pope Francis has said that homosexual tendencies ‘are not a sin,’ while encouraging parents who begin ‘seeing rare things’ in their children to ‘please, consult, and go to a professional,’ because ‘it could be that he [or she] is not homosexual.’. . .
“Asked by Spanish journalist Jordi Evole if he thinks it’s a ‘rarity’ for parents to have a homosexual child, the pope answered that ‘in theory, no.’
“‘But I’m talking about a person who is developing, and parents start to see strange things … Please consult, and go to a professional, and there you will see what it is and may not be homosexual, that is due to something else,’ he said.
“Francis also said that in his opinion, it’s usually challenging for a family to have a homosexual child, as they can be ‘scandalized by something they don’t understand, something out of the ordinary … I’m not making a judgement of value, I’m doing a phenomenological analysis,’ he said.”
The pope criticized “ill-intentioned” media coverage for the dispute over his August 2018 comment, which many understood as Francis’ endorsement of conversion therapy but which the Vatican later clarified by saying that the pope does not consider homosexuality a mental illness. But with La Sexta:
“[The] pope said he was ‘explaining that you never throw a homosexual person out of the house, but I made a distinction that when the person is very young and begins to show strange symptoms, it’s useful to go … I said to a psychiatrist, at that moment you say the word that comes out and, on top of that, in a language that is not yours.'”
Finally, Crux reported one further comment the pope made to La Sexta:
“Once a homosexual identity is ‘set,’ Francis said, a homosexual man or woman ‘has the right to a family, and that father and mother have the right to a son [or daughter], come as it may, and no son or daughter can be thrown out of the home.'”
These latest remarks are largely positive, and they clarify that Pope Francis did not have conversion therapy in mind when referencing psychiatric care for children who may be gay. His intention was to affirm the intervention of professional help when a child is coming to understand their sexuality, especially because learning about the gay or lesbian orientation of a son or daughter can sometimes be difficult for a family. Perhaps best of all is Francis’ affirmation that no child, including an LGBTQ one, should be thrown out of their home.
But references to a LGB identity becoming “set” or a child showing “strange symptoms” that may indicate they are gay are reminders that the pope’s approach to homosexuality is still well short of where it should be. His obvious pastoral concern needs to be backed by a contemporary understanding of sexuality from which he should issue clear statements rather than muddled ones. It is one thing for the Church to not have all the answers, but that does not mean church leaders should not seek some up to date information. The People of God, however, need more than well-intentioned answers that can be harmful in their ambiguity.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 2, 2019