Why is Pope Francis more positive on LGBTQ issues than his predecessors have been? That’s a million dollar question, with no definite answer. But, on June 17th, Pope Francis revealed a hint toward an answer when he addressed the editors of The Catholic School, a theological magazine. In the course of his talk, he remarked:
“Each person is an immense mystery and brings with him his own family, personal, human, spiritual history. Sexuality, affectivity and relatedness are dimensions of the person to be considered and understood by both the Church and science, also in relation to socio-cultural challenges and changes. An open attitude and good testimony allow the educator to “meet” the whole personality of the “called”, involving their intelligence, feelings, hearts, dreams and aspirations.” [From GoogleTranslate]
Although this quotation does not mention LGBTQ issues specifically, it does show Pope Francis’ expansive views about sexuality. Unlike his papal predecessors who had a more strictly biological basis for sexuality and gender (see Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body), Francis shows that he understands sexuality in more interpersonal and psychological ways. Francis explicitly connects sexuality to affectivity and relatedness, acknowledging that sex and gender are way beyond who someone might sleep with, and are more connected to who and how a person loves another.
By acknowledging science and socio-cultural challenges and changes, he recognizes that sexuality is more complex than the simple biologically-based church approaches can acknowledge.
So one answer to the million dollar question is that Pope Francis is more positive on LGBTQ issues because he has a broader, healthier understanding of sexuality than previous popes have had–and also of many other current church leaders who still promote anti-LGBTQ attitudes and policies.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 5, 2022