Pope Francis has again commented on homosexuality, reiterating that he does not believe lesbian and gay youth need psychiatrists, and saying he is a “conservative” who believes it is “an incongruity to speak of homosexual marriage.”
In a recent interview, the pope spoke again to a Mexican journalist, Valentina Alazraki of Televisa, addressing a wide range of topics. Asked by Alazraki about people in “irregular” situations, like the transgender man and his partner received by Pope Francis in 2015, the pope said he did not like the word “irregular.” Francis added:
“If we were convinced that they are children of God, things would change a lot.”
Francis then addressed a controversy from 2018 where it was reported that he said that parents should bring youth who exhibit signs of homosexuality to a psychiatrist, understood by some to be an allusion to conversion therapy. He clarified his comments (for a second time) in this latest interview (via Google Translate):
“I got angry, I was furious at how [the answer] was transmitted. About the family integration of people with homosexual orientation, and I said: homosexual people have the right to be in the family, people with a homosexual orientation have the right to be in the family and parents have the right to recognize that child as a homosexual, that daughter as a homosexual. You can not throw anyone out of the family or make life impossible for them. . .
On his use of the term “psychiatrist” at the time, said,
“I meant a professional because sometimes there are signs in adolescence or pre-adolescence and people do not know if these are of a homosexual tendency or is that the thymus gland did not atrophy in time, or, well, a thousand things, right? . . . . The headline in the newspaper read: ‘The Pope sends homosexuals to the psychiatrist’. It is not true! They asked me that same question again and I repeated it: ‘They are children of God, they have a right to a family, and such. . .That does not mean I approve of homosexual acts, far from it.”
Alazraki also asked Pope Francis about his famous “Who am I to judge?” comment from 2013, which the journalist said was pulled from its context and then gave hope to LGBTQ people. The pope responded that he was a “conservative” who “always defended doctrine,” adding he opposed marriage equality because “it is an incongruity to speak of homosexual marriage.”
Pope Francis again seems caught in the contradiction inherent to Church teachings on homosexuality. On the one hand, he believes that “things would change a lot” if Catholics stopped seeing LGBTQ people as “irregular.” On the other hand, he claims that same-gender marriage is an “incongruity.” Though there should be no division between the pastoral and the doctrinal, the pope’s continued mixed reactions personify the untenable situation in which the larger Catholic Church finds itself when it comes to LGBTQ issues. How much longer can pastoral impulses to be inclusive be hampered by a need to be “conservative” and defend doctrines increasingly rejected by the People of God.
LGBTQ Catholics and their allies are likely disappointed by these latest Francis remarks on homosexuality. The pope clearly does not understand with any depth how gender and sexuality are understood today. And he could never develop Church teaching in these areas single-handedly. He is, however, sowing seeds that could result in future change.
For more information about Pope Francis’ record on LGBTQ issues, see New Ways Ministry’s resource “The Many Faces of Pope Francis: A Timeline of His LGBTQ Record“
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 1, 2019
Vatican News: “Pope interview addresses violence against women and more”