Pope Francis has again made supportive remarks for parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer children, saying further that the parents must not condemn their children.
“‘I am also thinking of parents faced with their children’s problems,’ Francis said. ‘Children with many illnesses, sick children, even with permanent illnesses: how much pain there is. Parents who see different sexual orientations in their children; how [to] manage this and accompany the children without hiding behind a condemning attitude.’
“The pope continued speaking about parents who see their children leaving, dying, because of an illness, and kids who do ‘things of youth’ and end up in a car accident. Francis listed many other ‘parental problems,’ including children who don’t advance in school.
“‘Let’s think about how to help them,’ Francis said. ‘And to these parents I say, don’t be scared. Yes, there is pain. A lot of it. But think about how Joseph solved the problems and ask Joseph to help you. Never condemn a child.'”
These remarks are but the latest in Pope Francis’ support for parents of LGBTQ children. In 2020, he welcomed members of the Italian parents group Tenda di Gionata (Jonathan’s Tent) to an audience. After receiving a copy of the group’s book that tells parents’ stories, the pope told those in attendance: “The Church does not exclude [your children]. . .It loves your children as they are, because they are children of God.”
But Francis has also exhorted parents to care for their children, not to condemn them. In 2018, asked during an in-flight press conference what he might say to parents whose child came out, the pope said, “Do not condemn. Dialogue. Understand. Make space for the son or daughter; make space so they express themselves.” Parents, Francis said, should seek help if they are unsure of how to respond, but should always be in conversation and never “chase [the child] away from the family.” He repeated the need to never condemn or throw an LGBTQ child out of the home in 2019.
Pope Francis’ strong words to parents against condemning their queer children could have quite a positive impact if they are received. For example, in the United States, around 40% of unhoused youth are LGBTQ-identified. A majority of this LGBTQ population are unhoused because religious families rejected them after the child came out. If Catholic parents, particularly those who might adhere to non-affirming theologies, take the pope’s words to heart, outcomes for both LGBTQ young people and for families could be greatly improved.
Now available: Blessed Parents is an anthology of stories from Catholic parents from Italy who have LGBTQ children, now available in English from New Ways Ministry. Though across different cultures with different customs, what shines through these stories is the universal love that all parents have for their children. To learn more or order your copy, click here.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, January 27, 2022