Pope Francis has written another letter to LGBTQ people, saying this time that God “does not disown any of his children.”
The pope was answering three questions posed to him by Fr. James Martin, SJ, according to the National Catholic Reporter:
“‘God is Father and he does not disown any of his children,’ wrote Francis in a letter to Martin. ‘And “the style” of God is “closeness, mercy and tenderness.” Along this path you will find God.’
“The pope’s remarks came in response to the question ‘What would you say is the most important thing for LGBT people to know about God?’. . .
“When asked ‘What do you say to an LGBT Catholic who has experienced rejection from the church?’ the pope replied that “I would have them recognize it not as ‘the rejection of the church,’ but instead of ‘people in the church.’ “
“‘The church is a mother and calls together all her children,’ he continued. ‘Take for example the parable of those invited to the feast: “the just, the sinners, the rich and the poor, etc.” [Matthew 22:1-15; Luke 14:15-24]. A “selective” church, one of “pure blood,” is not Holy Mother Church, but rather a sect.'”
Asked what Francis would like LGBTQ people to know about the church, the pope recommended reading Acts of the Apostles because “there they will find the image of the living church.”
“The site, which operates under the auspices of America Media, will include news and essays as well as helpful resources like videos, books and links to welcoming organizations. The website will also feature the Gaudete series, which will profile parishes across the United States that are welcoming to L.G.B.T. Catholics.”
The new Outreach initiative follows two virtual conferences held in 2020 and 2021 by the same name. This coming June, an in-person Outreach conference will be held at Fordham University and will feature a number of LGBTQ Catholics and allies. To learn more about the econference, click here.
In an interview with The Advocate, Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said, in part:
“It is encouraging that he sent warm greetings. . . . I wish I had the opportunity to ask Pope Francis a couple of follow up questions about his letter. I’d ask whether by saying God does not disown people he means a full embrace with no conditions. Does he see God blessing the loving marriages and families created by same-sex spouses? Does he believe God delights in seeing transgender and nonbinary people growing into the selves they were created to be? And finally, I would ask him how he would answer LGBTQ+ people who hear church teachings labelling us as ‘objectively disordered,’ our relationships as ‘intrinsically evil,’ and living our true genders as threatening families and the social order as rejection.”
Pope Francis’ letter writing has become quite a phenomenon: in the past he has sent letters not only to Fr. Martin, but to New Ways Ministry, Sister Monica Astorga, the LGBTQ Catholic group in Florence, Italy, journalist Michael O’Loughlin, and many others. In December he sent a warm congratulatory note to Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways’ co-founder, on the occasion of her 50th anniversary of LGBTQ ministry. Sr. Jeannine had been censured by previous popes for her work, so it is significant that the current pope should have sent her such a positive message. Through his handwritten missives, Pope Francis is adhering to the style of “closeness, mercy and tenderness” towards LGBTQ people that he so often exhorts pastors to practice.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, commented on the pope’s letter:
“Pope Francis’ comments to Fr. Martin are further evidence that this pontiff very much wants LGBTQ people to feel welcome in the church. These comments are just the latest in a long line of positive statements the pope has made to church ministers who are reaching out in welcome to LGBTQ people. Pope Francis has been writing messages to LGBTQ people and their supporters since the beginning of his papacy in 2013. While, at first we thought, his messages might be just “one-offs,” the high number of such affirming messages shows a distinct pattern of affirmation.
“Pope Francis hasn’t made any doctrinal changes regarding LGBTQ people, but through these messages, he is preparing the church for future changes.”
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, May 11, 2022