The following is a statement from Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, in response to Pope Francis’ statement condemning the persecution of LGBTQ people.
Pope Francis has finally condemned the persecution of lesbian and gay people, by stating that actions “typical of Nazism have reappeared in modern life,” and include the oppression of “people of a homosexual orientation,” among other marginalized groups. New Ways Ministry welcomes this statement because it will help protect LGBTQ people and because it is based solidly on Catholic values of protecting human life and dignity and avoiding discrimination. We hope this statement signals a new direction in the hierarchy towards speaking out strongly against the intolerance, persecution, and violence that LGBTQ people experience around the world.
This simple message will save lives, protect people from harm, help keep families together, and work towards eradicating hateful attitudes. When the Pope speaks, people listen—regardless of faith or political leanings. It is especially important to hear these words from the Pope Francis’ mouth because much of the persecution against LGBTQ people occurs in nations with a strong Catholic population, often with the approval of local Catholic bishops.
While the pope has made a number of pastorally welcoming statements concerning LGBTQ people, he has not, until now, condemned the persecution of them, which is on the rise around the globe. This manifests itself in laws that criminalize LGBTQ people, often imposing harsh sentences, including the death penalty.
This statement has been a long time coming. For years, Catholic LGBTQ advocates have called on Pope Francis to use his powerful moral voice to condemn repressive and violent measures against sexual and gender minorities. (For a full chronology of Catholic voices speaking against, and in favor of, criminalization laws regarding LGBTQ people, click here.)
In 2012, many Catholic leaders, including a group of theologians and the former ambassador to the Vatican, Thomas Melady, spoke against the legalized oppression of LGBTQ people. In 2013, Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder of New Ways Ministry (NWM), met Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and urged him to use his voice to protect LGBTQ people around the world. Since January, 2014, NWM has been promoting the #PopeSpeakOut campaign, asking supporters to send messages to the pope urging him to condemn persecution against LGBTQ people. In February 2015, two Catholic LGBTQ leaders from the United Kingdom met with Turkson in Rome to urge opposition to criminalization laws. In October 2015, NWM Executive Director Francis DeBernardo interviewed Turkson at the Vatican and urged him to speak out against criminalization laws. In April of this year, an international group of LGBTQ human rights lawyers met at the Vatican with the Holy See’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to discuss oppression against LGBTQ people.
We are happy to hear the Pope echo the sentiments of Catholics in the pews who have been praying and working for many decades to end oppression against LGBTQ people.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 15, 2019