Gay Survivor of Clergy Abuse Writes Pope Francis “Pulled Me Out of the Grave”

Juan Carlos Cruz

The past week, Bondings 2.0 has marked the tenth anniversary of Pope Francis’ election with evaluations of the pope’s handling of LGBTQ+ issues, as well as relevant comments Francis made in interviews for the occasion. Today’s post concludes that coverage with links to other articles that may be of interest. (Our full coverage may be found at the bottom of this post.)

Juan Carlos Cruz, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse who is gay and became a confidant of Pope Francis, wrote about the pope’s impact on him and the church for the National Catholic ReporterCruz reflected on his first direct conversation with Francis in 2018:

“I wanted to speak for so many survivors that deserve the privilege I was given and will never have it, to tell him about so many who have died waiting, those who have committed suicide, and those who are not believed and continue begging for justice. I wanted to tell him about the plight of the LGBTQ community and the cruel rejection of many in the church. . .

“I do think he knows that there are millions around the world who have been touched by his love and love him back. I am not saying that he is perfect or that he has solved everything that needs to be solved, but who is and who does? He sincerely tries. I see it when he invites, cares and loves everyone.

“I know many don’t share how I feel and that is OK. My change in these years has been unbelievable. I was very lost. I felt unworthy. I was in terrible pain. I didn’t have much will to keep on living, let alone fight for others. Pope Francis pulled me out of the grave and I will be grateful forever. I have been given much and much will be demanded from me. I take that very seriously.”

Christopher Lamb of The Tablet wrote about the Francis papacy through five phrases,  the final of which was “pastoral.” To highlight this point, Lamb pointed to the pope’s LGBTQ+ outreach:

“The pastoral heart of the pontificate underpins everything Francis does, from his interactions with world leaders (sometimes acting in their private meetings as a kind of confessor) to his desire for a field hospital Church. The pastoral focus is why this pope is so allergic to the Church being caught up in the culture wars or becoming bound up with political or worldly ideology. . .Francis’ approach to LGBTQ people is an example of where his pastoral focus has shifted the Church’s approach away from harsh legalism to a Gospel-based vision of seeing every person as a child of God.”

Lamb offered a more specific evaluation of the pope’s LGBTQ+ record for Bondings 2.0, which you can find here.

Michael O’Loughlin wrote a feature on how LGBTQ+ Catholics have responded to Pope Francis for America. Among the interviewees was Jenny Ansier, a transgender Catholic once involved with parish ministry who was later asked to withdraw from public roles:

“‘I’m happy that Pope Francis has some empathy for us,’ Ms. Ansier said. She said the pope’s comments about L.G.B.T. people generate news coverage which lead to conversations in the parish. But she points to her experience being barred from ministry as evidence that not much has actually changed on the ground. If she were able to meet Pope Francis, she would tell him how coming out as a trans woman empowered her to live her life as God intended.

“‘Yes, you’re against the anthropological part of it,’ Ms. Ansier imagines telling Pope Francis. ‘But what about the good things that happened?’

“‘I’m able to live and use the skills and gifts that God gave me,’ she said. ‘I wasn’t able to use them before, but now I can.'”

Jason Steidl Jack, a gay theologian, told O’Loughlin that “the pope’s pastoral redirection of the church really is important,” even if church teaching is unchanged. Steidl Jack commented:

“‘Pope Francis has created space for conversations to happen that couldn’t have happened before. And quite frankly, he’s made physical space for LGBTQ Catholics in the church as well. A first step is allowing queer folks to be a part of the church, to recognize their gifts. . .After that, people will see who we are. People will see that our lives, our loves, are witness to God’s work in our lives. . .And Pope Francis is enabling that to happen.”

Ish Ruiz


Grace Doerfler

OSV News also offered an appraisal of the pope’s LGBTQ+ record. The report featured several non-affirming perspectives, yet also insights from gay theologian Ish Ruiz and lesbian journalist Grace Doerfler, who is a contributor to Bondings 2.0. Ruiz commented that the pope’s tenure is both “hope-filled and also frustrating” because there is progress, but the pope should “go a little bit further [and] allow “church doctrine to be transformed by the grace-filled witness” of LGBTQ+ people. Doerfler opined:

“[A]s a lesbian Catholic, I think (Pope Francis is) really a pastor. … He has such an attitude of welcome, kindness and love, and I think his papacy has made a real difference in how I and other LGBTQ Catholics feel about the church, and about staying (in it). . .[I] would love to see a church where I could have a church wedding someday, and where Catholic school teachers and other people in ministry could be openly gay and not lose jobs over it.”

Finally, Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press included LGBTQ+ people as one of the five issues reviewed in her analysis, writing that “Francis made outreach to LGBTQ people a hallmark of his papacy more than any pope before him.” She quoted Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, who previously stated that the pope “is reminding the church that the way people treat one another in the social world is of much greater moral importance that what people may possibly do in the privacy of a bedroom.”

Previous Posts

March 16, 2023: In Anniversary Interviews, Pope Francis Recalls “Three Things” He Said about LGBTQ+ Issues

March 15, 2023: From “A” to “D-“: How Catholic LGBTQ+ Leaders Grade Pope Francis At Ten Years, Part II

March 14, 2023: From “A” to “D-“: How Catholic LGBTQ+ Leaders Grade Pope Francis At Ten Years, Part I

March 13, 2023: The Results Are In: Here Is How Catholics Graded Pope Francis on LGBTQ+ Issues

March 11, 2023: Sister Jeannine Gramick: After Ten Years, This Pope Still Gives Me Hope

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, March 18, 2023

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *