New Ways Ministry: Pope Francis’ Transgender Welcome a Good Sign, and More Must Be Done

Pope Francis

The following is a statement from Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, regarding recent welcoming comments by Pope Francis to a transgender young person.

Pope Francis’ recent comment to a transgender person that “God loves us as we are” is a grand sign of welcome to LGBTQ+ people, particularly to transgender and nonbinary people.  He is once again modeling the kind of pastoral outreach message that he wants the rest of the church to follow as they encounter LGBTQ+ people in their faith communities.

This kind of message is needed as an important first step for church leaders and ministers who want to affirm LGBTQ+ people.  It is a message that the pope has issued several times in the past, such as welcoming a transgender man to the Vatican, corresponding with an Argentinian nun who ministers with transgender people, and helping a community of homeless transgender people in Naples. (For a list of statements and actions from Pope Francis on transgender issues, click here.)

If the pope’s messages of unconditional and compassionate acceptance encourage ministers, theologians, and church officials to listen more attentively to the life stories and spiritual journeys of transgender and nonbinary people, they will have the power to transform pastoral practice, and eventually church teaching which currently has too many condemnatory messages for LGBTQ+ people.

What is further needed from Pope Francis is a repudiation of anti-trans messages from church leaders, such as using the term “gender ideology” to refer to accurate scientific understandings of gender that recognize the male/female binary is not the only way that gender manifests itself in human nature. These explanations show that people experience gender in a wide variety of ways beyond only the two categories of male and female, and that physical characteristics are not the only signals of a person’s gender.

Unfortunately, the pope himself has often used the term “gender ideology” in the past, and has promoted the idea that the male/female binary is the only way that gender should be understood. This kind of thinking causes great psychological and spiritual damage to people whose gender identity do not fit the category they were assigned at birth, based on the insufficient evidence of physical characteristics. This thinking also harms the segment of the human population for whom “male” and “female” are not accurate descriptions.

If this message of God’s unconditional love signals a turning away from the language of “gender ideology” and from the practice of ignoring the reality of transgender people, then it has the power to transform the church into a community which accepts, values, and blesses the wonderful and amazing diversity with which God has created human beings.  We pray that this message will help the church work for the full equality of LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender and nonbinary individuals.

We pray that this message will usher in a new era where all are truly welcome in church and society, and where transgender and nonbinary people are respected, valued, and loved.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 26, 2023

2 replies
  1. Lindsey Pasquale
    Lindsey Pasquale says:

    Thank you for this. I love seeing positive signs but still always come back to what you said “What is further needed from Pope Francis is a repudiation of anti-trans messages from church leaders”.

    I’d love to see the USCCB change their messaging, or at the very least have the Pope acknowledge the hate that their messaging promotes and challenge them to do better. It isn’t his way so I am not holding my breathe. But I am hoping there will be signs of him working in other ways to combat their soul-sapping rhetoric.

  2. Duane Sherry
    Duane Sherry says:

    The use of the term “gender ideology” by members of the church hierarchy, including the Pope; the denial of science when it comes to gender identity; the refusal to administer sacraments by some of the bishops in the U.S. to transgender people, without their repentance; the promotion of a religious form of conversion therapy by some in the hierarchy; the constant targeting and marginalization of transgender people in the church; these are the reasons this 66 year-old cradle Roman Catholic, and father of a transgender daughter decided to recently leave the church to become an Episcopalian.

    The Pope may be a good pastor, but he is hardly a good leader of the Catholic Church. He had does nothing to reel in the cruel words and actions of his bishops. He has done nothing to understand the science and psychology of gender identity, choosing instead to rely on literature from the Iron Age.

    I’m out, and won’t be back.


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