Four interviews with Pope Francis were published this month as the church marked the tenth anniversary of his election. In all of them the pope commented on his approach to LGBTQ+ issues during his papacy.
In an interview with infobae, the pope was asked whether he would give Communion to a gay person, and Francis responded with what he considered the “three things” he has said about homosexuality while pope: his 2013 “Who am I to judge?” remark, his 2018 in-flight comments that parents need to love their gay children, and his most recent denouncement of anti-LGBTQ+ criminalization earlier this year. Explaining his approach, the pope said, in part:
“The great answer was given by Jesus: everyone. All. Everyone inside. When the exquisite ones did not want to go to the banquet: go there to the crossroads and call everyone. Good, bad, old, young, guys: everyone. All. And each one resolves his positions before the Lord with the strength that he has. . .today a lot of magnifying glass is put on this problem. I think we must go to the essentials of the gospel: Jesus calls everyone and each one resolves his relationship with God as he can or as he wants. Sometimes [one] wants and cannot, but the Lord always waits.”
Francis also spoke about the same three points in an interview with RSI.
In an interview with La Nacion, the pope was asked whether he was preparing a document on gender, which he denied, saying no one had asked for such an instruction. The interview proceeds as follows (via Google Translate):
“[Francis:] I always distinguish between what pastoral care is for people who have a different sexual orientation and what gender ideology is. They are two different things. Gender ideology, at this time, is one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations. It goes beyond the sexual. Why is it dangerous? Because it dilutes differences, and the richness of men and women and of all humanity is the tension of differences. It is growing through the tension of differences. The question of gender is diluting the differences and creating an equal world, all blunt, all the same. And that goes against the human vocation.
“[La Nacion:] Do you know that in Argentina, the last time I was there, you have to fill out a form that says male, female or non-binary sex?
“[Francis:] The futuristic experience that I had many years ago about this was when I read a novel that I always recommend, The Lord of the World, by [Monsignor Robert Hugh] Benson, written in 1907. It seems very modern, huh. A little heavy in the middle, some chapters, but it’s very pretty. It raises a future in which the differences are disappearing and everything is the same, everything is uniform, a single boss of the whole world. A futuristic prophet. And there I was finding the true tendency to shorten the differences. The rich thing that humanity has are its differences, cultural…
“[La Nacion:] But in the end it was not clear to me, did they ask you to write something about the gender issue?
“[Francis:] No no no. I talk about it. I speak because there are somewhat naive people who believe that it is the path of progress and do not distinguish what is respect for sexual diversity or various sexual options from what is already an anthropology of gender, which is extremely dangerous because it annuls differences, and that it annuls humanity, the richness of humanity, personal type, cultural and social, the differences and the tensions between the differences.”
Pope Francis addressed the question of civil unions for same-gender couples in an interview with Perfil, in addition to emphasizing the three points about homosexuality mentioned above. His comments included the following:
“I think that the civil union has to exist, it had already been in France for years and I took it from there, because it is a way to give a certain social space to same-sex unions, marriage is something else, and it has another configuration, but that is my position. . .
“My position on homosexuality is there in those three. Here to the general audience come people who are from homosexual groups, they are among the people, and they present themselves as such, I greet everyone. All are children of God and each one seeks God and finds him, by the way he can. God only separates the proud, the other sinners are all in line.”
Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 featured readers’ and Catholic LGBTQ+ leaders’ grades for Pope Francis on issues of gender and sexuality. Though ranging from “A+” to “F,” most respondents settled somewhere around a “B,” which acknowledged the great progress made while not ignoring Francis’ weak spots.
These anniversary interviews show, in the pope’s own words, what many of those who responded to our poll said: his record on LGBTQ+ issues this past decade is mixed. On the question of homosexuality, Francis increasingly leans into a more pastoral approach that increasingly also has a human rights dimension to it. The “three things” he highlighted in the interviews make this clear. And yet, his remarks to La Nacion on gender are another example that the pope’s approach to contemporary understandings of gender, as well as transgender and nonbinary identities, lacks sufficient information. His lack of understanding, though, diverges dramatically from his positive actions towards trans people.
Catholics need more from Pope Francis than abstracted warnings of “gender ideology.” Indeed, the pope’s engagement with gender should be marked by a similar grounding in contemporary ideas and scholarship that was a hallmark of Francis’ ecological encyclical Laudato Si. This pope has shown repeatedly that he is a leader willing to learn. He now must begin to apply that willingness to be a student to how gender is understood and functions today.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, March 16, 2023