Mother of Transgender Child Writes to Pope Francis: “Stop Putting Limits on God’s Love!”

Next Monday, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith is set to release a new document, Dignitas Infinita, which according to the dicastery’s prefect, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, will address “immoral tendencies” in society—including questions about gender identity, reproductive ethics, and healthcare for transgender people. Pope Francis expressed hope that this document would help the church “always be close to all those who, without fanfare, in concrete daily life, fight and personally pay the price for defending the rights of those who do not count.” Bondings 2.0 will provide coverage of the document and reactions to it beginning next week.

Recently, New Ways Ministry received a copy of a letter to Pope Francis from the Catholic mother of a transgender daughter, Lisa Williams. We have received her permission to publish her letter. 

His Holiness Pope Francis,

Thank you for your affirming words, spoken and written, regarding the LGBTQ+ community, and for approving the declaration, Fiducia Supplicans, which gave permission for priests to bless people in same-gender relationships. Previously, you stated in Amoris Laetitia, your apostolic exhortation on the family: “We would like to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression or violence.” I have seen your heartfelt attempts through the present Synod on Synodality to help create the inclusive, welcoming church that Jesus intended for all of humanity.

These are important steps toward addressing the exclusion and discrimination that the LGBTQ+ community has faced at the hands of the Catholic Church. God gives us the opportunity every day to live our faith and to lead with love. In discriminating against our LGBTQ+ family, we fail our Lord and one another miserably. We need to accept and celebrate people’s differences. God constantly reveals the beauty and diversity of humankind through the unique individuals that make up our planet.

God made each of us in God’s “image and likeness,” and we should celebrate that miracle as it plays out in every human being. Because every person that walks this earth possesses the image of God, racism, discrimination, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are assaults on God’s image.

Jesus never drew a line in the sand of who was worthy and who was not worthy of His love. Jesus was a revolutionary who challenged and broke laws that excluded and oppressed humans deemed outside society’s norms. He tried to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to living in communion as God’s children.

Our oldest child is transgender. She was always very spiritual and faithful. She attended Catholic school her entire life (elementary, high school, and college) and was a practicing member of the Catholic Church. She is service-oriented, and volunteered in many of our parish ministries, including altar serving from 4th grade through 12th grade. She earned the highest award for community service at her college and currently works for a nonprofit organization where she focuses on homelessness. She is a child of God and has always been God’s humble and devout servant. She is the shining light of Jesus Christ in our very dark world, and she is a beautiful example of Jesus by the way she lives the Beatitudes each and every day of her life’s journey.

The moment that our child finally came out as transgender, most of her world turned its back on her. She was no longer welcome in the Catholic community, nor was she “worthy” of receiving the sacraments. This reaction created a deep void and enormous hurt for her and for our entire family. We experienced what it is like to be on the margins, wrongfully shunned by society and our church.

This pain was exacerbated when the Vatican issued its 2019 document, Male and Female He Created Them: Toward a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education. This document states that my transgender child is confused, impulsive, and that her transgender identity is a choice—despite the fact that the gender theory relied on by this document is from the 1950’s (and older) and has been refuted by medicine and science. Our lived experience validates that being transgender is an innate characteristic for her.

Our child is not physically, psychologically, or emotionally disordered. She is perfect. The Catholic Church’s present teachings on LGBTQ+ issues and our general society are disordered in their lack of understanding, awareness, empathy, compassion, and acceptance of all human beings as they were created. Our child’s gender identity does not correspond with her birth sex; therefore, she is transgender ~ just as our loving God designed and ordered her to be.

I challenge us, as followers of Jesus, to allow ourselves to become uncomfortable so that real and necessary change can happen. We need to face our fears, our misunderstandings, and our biases. We must stop putting limits on God’s love and divinity, which have no limits and are beyond our human understanding. Catholics should never call any of God’s beautiful children “disordered” because God knew them in the womb and created them as they were intended to be in this world.
I humbly ask you, Pope Francis, and all Church leaders to re-examine Catholic doctrine about the LGBTQ+ community. Please correct the misconceptions and wrongdoings that the Catholic Church has imposed on these innocent souls. Please bring the much-needed healing and reconciliation that the LGBTQ+ community deserves.

I pray you will immediately address three specific items:

1. Acknowledge that Scripture passages deemed to address homosexuality (and applied to the entire LGBTQ+ community by some) be analyzed in the historical-critical context to confirm that ancient terms and understandings cannot be applied to how homosexuality is understood today. People have misused the Bible to justify racial segregation, the suppression of women, the institution of slavery, and hatred and cruelty against the LGBTQ+ community. The Bible does not condemn a mutually exclusive, loving, consensual, adult same-sex relationship as we understand it today. Moreover, “Male AND female, God created them” reflects a spectrum of sexuality and gender, not a binary view. Medical doctors, scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists acknowledge this understanding of a continuum.

2. Please stop using the term “intrinsically disordered” when discussing LGBTQ+ folks. Such language is derogatory, demeaning, and inaccurate; it leads to hurt, hate, and pain. LGBTQ+ people are perfectly ordered just as God designed them to be and should be treated with the same respect and dignity as any other human being.

3. Repudiate the Church’s discriminatory employment practices against LGBTQ+ people. In the U.S., the legal “ministerial exception” allows religious institutions to be exempt from anti-discrimination laws. The Catholic Church should support LGBTQ+ equality and end discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace and everywhere in our world. As a Church community, we need to stop hiding in fear and misunderstanding behind the mask of “religious liberty” which condones discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. In the U.S., the Equality Act, which would give the LGBTQ+ community equal human rights and protections under federal law, is opposed by some lawmakers because they want to allow churches and other religious organizations to discriminate based on religious liberty.

I, as a humble servant of our Lord, am willing to do my part and assist in any way possible to make the above items happen. I want to work toward living in true communion as God’s children. Guide me as to how I can be of service to make this endeavor a reality. I look forward to your response to this letter.

Lisa Williams, April 4, 2024

16 replies
  1. Dr Claire Jenkins
    Dr Claire Jenkins says:

    Dear Lisa, thank you for this beautiful heartfelt letter. As a transgender grandmother, I feel tearful about your daughter’s situation, she is truly a light to the world and especially our church. May our Pope Francis show the love and compassion of our blessed Lady Mary when she stood at the foot of the cross at the time of Jesus’ ultimate rejection. Yours humbly, Clairejxx

  2. JP
    JP says:

    This letter is so beautiful and thoughtful! I long for the day when such language may come from the church. I’m afraid though that the upcoming document will not even come close. There’s been some warning signs from the DDF’s Cardinal Fernandez who commented that the opposition to Fiducia Supplicans will find relief in this new document. Overall, I find the gap between recent changes in pastoral care and a solidly medieval doctrine increasingly untenable. Are we really supposed to be satisfied with a shift from “ban the lepers” to “try to be kind to them sometimes”? And how long is that supposed to last?

  3. Jim Petosa
    Jim Petosa says:

    The letter is a beautiful summation and personal testament to this moment’s opportunity for LGBTQ+ acceptance in the community of the Church.

  4. Sarah Probst Miller
    Sarah Probst Miller says:

    Incredibly beautiful writing which echoes the yearning of my heart . . . . So grateful you wrote this. I pray your plea is heard and acted upon. I appreciate the clarity and specificity of your asks.
    Blessings to you,

  5. . Mary
    . Mary says:

    Thanks to Lisa Williams for her compassionate and comprehensive comments on the how we must include and celebrate LGBTQ+ PERSONS in our community

  6. Michelle Landry
    Michelle Landry says:

    Dear Lisa, thank you for your clear, strong, articulate, and passionate letter to Pope Francis out of love for your daughter and all LGBTQ+ Catholic persons asking for what is right and just. May your voice and all of ours be heard. And May it be so. Sending you love

  7. Debra Huff
    Debra Huff says:

    Dear Lisa, I needed your words this morning! Your letter is PERFECT, BEAUTIFUL and to the point. I am so GRATEFUL to you and for you. I am exhausted from the discrimination I receive from the Church. I know Jesus LOVES each of us abundantly, all the time. Our Church needs to mirror Jesus’s unconditional Love. May God bless you and your daughter abundantly! Thank you for your letter. Love and Solidarity, Deb

  8. Loretta Fitzgerald
    Loretta Fitzgerald says:

    This mother’s letter to Papa Francis is the most articulate, rational, convincing, compelling, and loving discourse for all people who are steeped in fear and/or unintended ignorance. I pray he reads it and responds not just to her, but to the the world. He is loved and respected by so many regardless of their religious affiliation or without affiliation. Lisa is a voice that needs to be heard from the mountaintop.

  9. Carla R.
    Carla R. says:

    Mrs. Williams, Bravo! As many of us who have watched The Chosen, I compare those pharisees at the Vatican and throughout the Church be they cardinals, bishops, etc., who I’m sure are genuinely convinced of their anti-transgender views, to the pharisees and saducees who wanted Jesus crucified because He taught what is said in your letter. They were vehemently against the new Jewish movement that became Christianity. I can see Caiaphfas and his cohorts still living in the Church today enforcing outdated and outright wrong facts in the man made oral tradition of Christianity. I pray that a modem Nicodemus can convince the rest of the modern catholic sanhedrin of the truth of gender identity (and there are many cardinals and bishops who do).
    Again, thank you Mrs Williams.
    With love and admiration to you.

  10. Molly Hultzapple
    Molly Hultzapple says:

    What a beautiful, heartfelt, compelling, and true letter. Lisa Williams, what an amazing priest you would make, given your loving, open, inclusive heart, so much like Jesus’s. But of course the same Church that rejects your beautiful daughter also is excluding the knowledge, compassion, wisdom, and loving kindness of half of the population, who would undoubtedly be preaching a more inclusive, Jesus-like message given the opportunity. Know that I stand in solidarity with you, your daughter, and all LGBTQ+ people. Bless you and your amazing daughter and thank you both for making the world a better place.

    With great respect and love,
    Molly Hultzapple

  11. Debra K
    Debra K says:

    This is the most comprehensive, articulate letter I have ever seen written on this topic to the church leaders and I commend its brave, well spoken mother on her courage and clarity in writing this. I support every single point expressed as the mother of two LGBTQ children. Thank you for representing our thoughts and feelings on this issue.

  12. Cheryl A Rogers
    Cheryl A Rogers says:

    So very well said Lisa. You speak from your truth and living your faith amongst the thorns and brier patches of society. I sense the Holy Spirit spoke these powerful Spirit-filled words through you. Thank you thank you thank you and May God keep you and your child safe and continually loved. Amen.


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