Catholic LGBTQ+ Advocates Welcome Pope Francis’ Denouncement of Criminalization Laws

Juan Carlos Cruz

Catholic LGBTQ+ advocates largely have welcomed Pope Francis’ denouncement of laws around the globe that criminalize being LGBTQ+. Today’s post features a first set of these reactions. More will follow in the coming days. To access New Ways Ministry’s response to the pope’s remarks, click here.

Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay man who advises Pope Francis on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told NPR that it was an “incredible day.” He continued:

“It doesn’t surprise me from Pope Francis. He’s a man that is open to everybody, who holds the dignity of the person in the highest standards. The LGBT community is very in his heart. I would not say this if I didn’t know it. I know this for a fact, and that makes me very happy. . .

“The pope highlights that the LGBTQ community is not sinful and criminal. And he says harming one’s neighbor is most certainly both. So it’s the bedrock of Catholic teaching. And he shifts this, you know, wording, like you said it, Leila, but he highlights how important it is that it’s more sinful, you know, having things against your neighbor or being uncharitable, or criminal towards the gay community, that’s sinful.”

LGBT+ Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council, the London-based outreach which includes a significant LGBTQ+ refugee community, issued a statement welcoming the pope’s statements. Ruby Almeida, the chairperson, commented:

“These are wonderful words and a powerful message that we at the LGBT+ Catholics of Westminster are overjoyed to hear from Pope Francis. There are many in our community who fled persecution and violence from the unjust laws in their countries and have sought safe refuge in the UK.

“We are glad to hear the Pope reiterate that ‘We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity,’ and pray that many countries around the world who continue to uphold old colonial laws will dispense them and bring equality and justice to our LGBT+ people.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, celebrated the pope’s interview in a statement, saying, in part:

“World leaders and legislators in many, many countries pay attention to what Catholic officials say. The Vatican’s support of criminalizing homosexuality has made life very dangerous for countless gay people in countries on nearly every continent. Shifting the stance and pushing for an end to making Queer identity illegal will make life safer for many people around the world. . .It is critical that the church’s bishops immediately end any support they have given to laws that make being gay or same-sex relationships illegal. We also call on Catholics in our own country and around the world to support equality and non-violence for their LGBTQIA+ neighbors.”

Christopher Vella, co-chair of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC), said in a statement from the organization:

“The Pope’s statement is a very important development for LGBTIQ people and their families around the world. Ending Vatican support for laws that make it illegal to be gay will make LGBTIQ people much safer. Ending criminalization of identity, and the violence towards our community often seen as justified by such laws, has been a priority of GNRC since we began our work. We are very happy that Pope Francis is now ending Vatican promotion of such laws.'”

Jamie Manson, a queer Catholic and president of Catholics for Choice, tweeted, in part:

“As a lesbian Catholic activist, I must say when Pope Francis refers to homosexuality as ‘sin,’ he’s really saying that our love is not capable of goodness or holiness. That kind of stigmatizing language can, and often does, still lead to anti-LGBTQ violence and persecution. . .

“And so, as is the case every time Francis talks about LGBTQ issues, we get one step forward, two steps back. LGBTQ people need more than nice-sounding words in a newspaper interview in order to be safe in the Catholic church. We need doctrinal change.”

Fr. James Martin wrote a brief commentary for OutreachAmerica’s LGBTQ+ resource site, explaining:

“For some people, the pope’s words may seem unsurprising or even bland. Most people (even those who believe that same-sex activity is sinful) are against jailing LGBTQ people and certainly oppose executing them. Even hard-liners believe that a sin is different than a crime.”

Bondings 2.0 will cover further responses from Catholics and LGBTQ+ advocates in the coming days. For a listing of Catholic leaders’ responses to anti-LGBTQ+ criminalization in recent years, click here. For New Ways Ministry’s resources on ending criminalization, click here.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, January 31, 2023

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