From “A” to “D-“: How Catholic LGBTQ+ Leaders Grade Pope Francis At Ten Years, Part II

As the church marks the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election this week, Bondings 2.0 asked our readers to grade Pope Francis on his approach to and impact on LGBTQ+ issues. To see how Bondings 2.0 readers graded the pope, see Monday’s post by clicking here.

Today’s post, the second of two parts, features responses from leading Catholic observers, theologians, pastoral ministers, and reform advocates who comment on LGBTQ+ issues. The first part of such responses was published yesterday, and you can read it here

Christopher Vella

Christopher Vella (he/him), co-chair for Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, Malta: B-

Pope Francis has been a significant game changer on sexual orientation issues. He said “Who am I to judge?” He tacitly acknowledged that civil same-sex unions were necessary. He called for a decriminalisation of homosexuality. In view of the Church as a global reality, and  keeping in mind recent events in the Anglican Communion, his statements are very bold. Conservative parts of the Church consider he has gone overboard by being so outspoken positively towards LGBTIQ+ people. His openness to the periphery, his willingness to listen, and his invitation to the synodal approach offers a beautiful opportunity for the Church to embrace people like us who have collectively been labelled as sinners, and who often have not been allowed a seat at the table. On the other hand, his continued insistence on the term “gender ideology”is a big disappointment because the ideology is only in the heads of those who use that term, not in the lives of trans* people . The Church cannot change overnight, nor can it do so in just ten years. But the change in approach, mentality, and the feeling of being welcome has nonetheless been unprecedented. The future MAY be hopeful!

Craig A. Ford, Jr.

Craig A. Ford, Jr. (he/him), Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, St. Norbert College, Wisconsin, USA: B-

Within the very specific context of Roman Catholicism, Pope Francis’ pontificate has been extraordinary for providing a living counter-narrative to how other Catholics (including other Catholic prelates) have interpreted official teaching related to gender and sexuality. To use Francis’ own words, where past popes and other prelates have built walls—hiding behind the rhetoric that maintains that it is “an act of love” to isolate LGBTQ+ Catholics from employment within Catholic spaces and keep them from full participation in the ecclesial life of the Church—Pope Francis has instead built bridges. He does so by inviting LGBTQ+ people to the Vatican, by calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide, and by fostering a vigorous discussion of official teaching among the Church’s episcopal conferences. However, there is so much more progress that needs to be made, both doctrinally and socially.

Fr. Luís Corrêa Lima

Fr. Luís Corrêa Lima (he/him), professor in theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro involved with LGBT+ ministry, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: B

The gestures and words of Pope Francis open paths towards relationships between the Christian world and LGBTQ+ people. His famous statement – “who am I to judge?” – brings the Catholic teachings on freedom and autonomy of conscience to the reality of this population. The pope has welcomed LGBTQ+ people with words of support and encouragement, such as: “God made you and loves you this way. You must be happy as you are.” He defended the civil recognition of same-gender unions, proposed pastoral care for those living in such unions, and advocated for the decriminalization of homosexuality around the world. Many would like the pope to go further, but he is the minister of Church unity, and I believe he has done the most. It is up to the rest of the Church and society to do their part.

Sr. Luisa Derouen

Sister Luisa Derouen, O.P. (she/her), a Dominican Sister of Peace with more than 20 years of ministry among the transgender community, Kentucky, USA: A-

I give Pope Francis an A- for the progress he has made in acceptance of our transgender and non-binary siblings. The minus is because he has made some negative statements, but I give him an A because of his consistent plea for us to listen to people and allow them to speak their own truth rather than expecting them to be who we believe they are. He’s not afraid of the diversity of God’s creation, and he keeps reminding us to have the humility to allow God’s Spirit to speak through all of us.

Natalia M. Imperatori-Lee, Ph.D.

Natalia M. Imperatori-Lee, Ph.D. (she/her), Professor of Religious Studies, Manhattan College, New York, USA: B

A “B” indicates very good work. “Who am I to judge?” was great, as was his call to decriminalize homosexuality globally. Overall he’s had excellent moments, but nothing exceeding expectations.

Fr. Peter Daly

Fr. Peter J. Daly, retired priest and board member for New Ways Ministry, District of Columbia, USA: A-

Pope Francis has performed a minor miracle in pivoting the Roman Catholic Church from a rigid and negative stance toward the world. He has transformed the church’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues from one of anger to one of love. I agree with the assessment of theologian Richard Gaillardets in the National Catholic Reporter that while the Pope has opened the door to reform, he has not walked through it.

He has opened the door to women deacons, but no women deacons. He has opened the door to married priests, but no married priests. He has opened the door to curial reform, but the Curia seems to be unreformed.

Ruby Almeida

Ruby Almeida, advocate for and member of sexual minorities who is involved with Bridge and Embrace, India and London: A

Pope Francis has brought about such a positive change for the faithful LGBTQIA community. His desire to reach out to us, to welcome us, to speak out for our social, religious, and human rights is wonderfully affirming. In the West, we find objections to the use of the word ‘compassion’ in the Catechism, as something demeaning. Yet, it is exactly what the Church must urgently show, to delineate itself from the coercive and inhuman edicts of some governments where the LGBT+ person is subjugated with violence and hatred.

Pope Francis is that breath of fresh air that fills my soul with the presence of God and which transports me to the delights of our Catholic faith. A faith that does not exclude anyone. A faith where we are all equal in the eyes of God. A faith, my faith, where it is only for God to judge on that day. Now, it just requires all of us to get with that plan.

Ursula Halligan

Ursula Halligan, Joint Coordinator of We Are Church Ireland, Dublin: C

Pope Francis is the most LGBTQ-friendly Pope in the history of Catholicism and dramatically changed the tone of Church language and culture towards LGBTQ people. He has urged Catholics to welcome LGBTQ people to the Church, supported civil unions for same-sex couples and called for the decriminalisation of homosexuality. He is the first pope to use the word “gay”; to say that LGBTQ people are loved by God just as we are, and that homophobia is a sin.

However, his thinking on same-sex marriage remains muddled. He has clarified that homosexual acts are a sin in the same way that any sexual act outside of marriage is a sin. However, he has not clarified what same-sex couples in faithful, committed relationships are supposed to do then? Many would like to marry in Church but the Pope won’t even allow their unions to be blessed. If the committed love of same-sex couples is a “sin,” then perhaps the Church is an accessory?

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, March 15, 2023

1 reply
  1. John Calhoun
    John Calhoun says:

    The framework of much church teaching is ‘natural law’ theory. Could be useful for Bondings to update readers on how philosophy and theology informed by the natural sciences consider ‘natural law’. In short, any recent developments? Thanks for the postings.


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