Pope Francis has made headlines again with a positive statement about gay people,, this time criticizing people who reject gay people, and making a strong statement about applying the church’s social justice tradition to LGBT people.
London’s Mirror newspaper reported that during an audience at the Vatican with several entertainers, Pope Francis told one of them:
“Giving more importance to the adjective [gay] rather than the noun [man], this is not good. We are all human beings and have dignity. It does not matter who you are, or how you live your life – you do not lose your dignity.
“There are people that prefer to select or discard people because of the adjective. These people don’t have a human heart.”
The pope addressed these words to Stephen K. Amos, a British comedian after Amos told the pontiff:
“I lost my mother, three months ago I buried my twin sister, who were both very religious.
“So me coming on this pilgrimage, being non-religious, I was looking for answers and faith. But as a gay man, I don’t feel accepted.”
Amos said he was moved to tears by the pope’s comments, and he reflected on his own expectations of such an encounter as well as the affects it will have:
“If it had been the answer I was expecting I would have walked out. Hearing what he said floored me.
“He gave me faith in humanity. He knows his response to my question… will have ramifications around the world.
“He’s saying those who hold extreme religious views of anti-homosexuality or anti-abortion don’t have a human heart and that is huge.”
The reference to abortion is because another entertainer addressed the pope on that topic. His comments were not included in the news article.
Amos is correct that the pope’s comments “will have ramifications around the world.” That is the best thing about Pope Francis’ positive comments about LGBT people: he models a new pastoral tone for other church leaders to follow.
What is critically important in these latest remarks is that it shows the pope prizing the church’s social justice tradition over the sexual ethics tradition. In saying “It does not matter who you are, or how you live your life – you do not lose your dignity,” the pope is showing that the social justice tradition about human dignity is more important than the sexual ethics tradition, which does not approve of same-gender sexual relationships. This shift is important because while many church leaders, especially in the U.S., often mention both traditions in their comments about LGBT issues, the social justice tradition is often given short shrift in comparison to the sexual ethics tradition, and it often appears to be regarded as secondary, not primary, as the pope has made it in this comment.
I am sure the headlines will all focus on the pope’s comments that those who reject gay people “don’t have a human heart.” It is more sound-byte-y, and it is a powerful statement. But for the long haul, I think his comments which show he believes that social justice should be the primary lens through which the church view’s LGBT people will have the greater impact.
And lest we forget: kudos to Stephen Amos for bringing up the topic! He did so in a personal, honest, and vulnerable way. I can only imagine that meeting the pope is an awe-inspiring event, so it is wonderful that Wolf had the courage and the presence of mind in that situation to bring up what many consider a controversial topic. I hope all LGBT people and allies who have such an opportunity make the best of it as Amos did.
In London’s Express newspaper, Amos described how it came about that he asked the question:
” ‘I have been critical about some aspects of the Roman Catholic Church, so I didn’t want to be seen taking a blessing or being sycophantic. Then I thought, “What an opportunity”, so we asked producers if there was a possibility we could ask questions.
” ‘They came back and said yes, so it had to be done.’ The star said he was expecting a stock response from Francis, but said the Pope’s reply ‘one thousand per cent floored me.’
“Stephen said: ‘It really opened my eyes to how I shouldn’t be too judgmental, based on what their ideology might be.There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Let’s just say it was a moment that will stay with me for the rest of my life.’ “
More of Amos’ reflections on the encounter can be found in a Premier article by clicking here.
The encounter between Amos and the pope was captured by a BBC video crew who were tailing Amos and other celebrities for a reality television show, “The Road to Rome” which follows celebrity pilgrims as they travel the medieval pilgrimage route from Canterbury, England, to Rome.
Pope Francis is a pastoral powerhouse in one-on-one encounters, saying amazingly inspiring things to people. As Bondings 2.0 and New Ways Ministry have said before, he needs to make these same statement more publicly so that people can hear it from his own mouth. The words of Jesus from the Gospel: “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops” (Matthew 10:27).
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, April 19, 2019