— Pope Francis has established himself as one of the most boundary-pushing popes the church has ever had. Here are his stances on same-sex marriage, trans people, LGBTQ+ parents, and more.
Every few months, many LGBTQ+ folks find themselves asking the same question: what is even the deal with the pope?
Since becoming the 266th leader of the Catholic Church in 2013, Pope Francis — née Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio — has established himself as one of the most boundary-pushing popes in modern history. That led a group of five cardinals to issue a list of concerns, or dubia, in October 2023 challenging some of his most radical positions on LGBTQ+ rights and other issues.
Still, in the Catholic church, “radical” is subjective. Francis has certainly taken many positions that soften Catholic doctrine when it comes to LGBTQ+ people and issues. That isn’t a hard thing to do, given that his predecessor Pope Benedict believes gay marriage will bring about the apocalypse and some leading bishops even lobbied against an LGBTQ+ suicide hotline. But Francis has also contradicted himself and split some very specific hairs regarding LGBTQ+ rights. And on a few issues, like the concept of transgender people, his principles are strictly orthodox.
With so many different statements released over the past decade, it can be hard to figure out what Pope Francis actually believes, especially about queer and trans people and how we live our lives and fit into the Church. Below, we’ve rounded up the highlights from Francis’ papacy so far to make sense of how Catholicism might slowly be changing, and in what ways it’s still the same old $30 billion tax haven we’re used to.
What is Pope Francis’s stance on gay people?
Francis has generally taken the open-ended position that God loves gays and wants them welcomed in the church. In 2013, the Pope famously said that “if someone is gay and is searching for the Lord […] who am I to judge?” The statement was widely lauded at the time simply for being the first time a pope had ever said the word “gay,” rather than “homosexual,” in public remarks. (Since then, Francis has frequently spoken of “homosexuals” in various comments.) In 2015, Francis affirmed the ministry of Bishop Jacques Gaillot, who was removed from his ministry in 1995 after he blessed gay couples. In 2018 Francis said that gay Catholics are made and loved by God, and in a surprise meeting at the Vatican in 2020, told families of LGBTQ+ youth that “God loves your children as they are.”
But while he has regularly affirmed queer love in the abstract, the pope has been less positive about what all those homosexuals might end up doing with one another. While “being homosexual is not a “crime,” as Francis exhorted in January 2023, he went on to say that “it’s a sin […] first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.” This seemed to contradict another statement Francis made in 2019, when he said the “tendencies” to be gay “are not a sin.”
In particular, Francis has said that queer relations between clergy members are a “serious concern” and “worry” him. “The question of homosexuality is a very serious one,” Francis said in a 2018 book interview, and there was “no room” for anyone in the ministry to enter a queer relationship (though heterosexual ones were still okay).
“In our societies, it even seems homosexuality is fashionable. And this mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the Church,” he fretted, recommending “persons with this rooted tendency not be accepted into ministry or consecrated life.”
Does Pope Francis support same-sex marriage?
Well, yes, but actually no. Francis is a vocal supporter of legal “civil unions,” but that’s as far from Church orthodoxy as he is willing to stray. This position dates back to his pre-papal days as Cardinal Bergoglio, when he was a leading proponent for a 2010 same-sex “civil union” bill in Argentina. As soon as that bill fell through, however, Bergoglio wrote a letter to the Carmelite Nuns of Buenos Aires to sound the alarm about another bill legalizing same-sex “marriage,” which was ultimately successful. The law would represent “the outright rejection of the law of God,” the pope-to-be wrote at the time, by “a ‘movement’ of the father of lies,” — i.e., Satan — “that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
After Kim Davis infamously refused to grant same-sex marriage licenses to gay couples as a Kentucky county clerk in 2015, claiming she acted “under God’s authority,” Pope Francis met with Davis that September during his visit to Washington, D.C. A Vatican statement asserted Francis only interacted with Davis as part of an audience with “several dozen persons,” and that their meeting “should not be considered a form of support of her position.” But Davis and her lawyers at the conservative Liberty Counsel have told a different story, saying Francis said he would pray for Davis, “thanked her for her courage and told her to ‘stay strong.’”
The pope has continued to ride this line for years, calling same-sex marriage “a contradiction” in some 2019 comments that LGBTQ+ figures roundly condemned. Francis doubled down in 2021, saying that since “marriage” is a God-delivered sacrament, the Church did not have the power to alter its definition. Civil unions can “help the situation” in a legal sense, he explained, but “marriage is marriage.”
As of now, Pope Francis still holds that “civil unions” are the only way to reconcile the religious and legal definitions of marriage. In his response to five conservative cardinals’ complaints in 2023, Francis expressed support for clergy (like Gaillot) who bless same-sex unions, but only if those blessings “do not convey a mistaken concept of marriage.” That privilege is still reserved for “a man and a woman” — specifically, the ones who are “naturally open to procreation.” Super.
What does Pope Francis think about transgender people?
Unsurprisingly, what the pope says about trans people doesn’t always match up with how he treats them. Francis is most infamously known among trans communities for comparing trans people to nuclear weaponry, comments that gave us the best flagging shirts of all time. “[G]ender theory […] does not recognize the order of creation,” Francis said in a 2014 interview, and thus “man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator” whose design “is written in nature.” Francis reiterated that concept in 2016, writing that trans youth “need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created” rather than physically transition.
In 2019, the Vatican distributed a memo entitled “Male and Female He Created Them,” a document which declared both trans and intersex identities “only a ‘provocative’ display against so-called ‘traditional frameworks’” that “seek to annihilate the concept of ‘nature.’” If you’re nonbinary, no you’re not: that idea is “nothing more than a confused concept of freedom in the realm of feelings and wants,” wrote Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi in the memo, published by the Vatican Press. In early 2023, Francis went even further: “gender ideology, today, is one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations” in the world, he said, because “it blurs differences and the value of men and women.” Later in the year, he did make an allowance that trans people could receive baptism, but only if doing so would not cause a “scandal.”
But despite apparently seeing them as unnatural threats to divine creation, Francis has at least provided some amount of material support to trans people in need, particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, Francis donated an undisclosed amount of money to a group of unhoused trans sex workers sheltering in an Italian church. Since then, he has gone on to meet with the same group at least five separate times, eating pasta with them and over 1,000 others at a lunch in November recognizing the Church’s World Day of the Poor.
For those trans people, the Pope is a major force for good, at least more so than he’s been viewed elsewhere in the world. “We transgenders in Italy feel a bit more human because the fact that Pope Francis brings us closer to the Church is a beautiful thing,” Carla Segovia told Reuters after the lunch. “Because we need some love.”
Does Pope Francis support LGBTQ+ parents and adoption rights?
On this, the Pope has taken a much clearer stance: not on your life. If a “marriage” is no longer between a man and a woman, then-Cardinal Bergoglio wrote in his 2010 letter to the Carmelite Nuns, adopted children will be irrevocably harmed from growing up with gay parents. “At stake are the lives of so many children who will be discriminated against in advance,” he lamented, “depriving them of the human maturation that God wanted to be given with a father and a mother.” (It should be noted that children raised by LGBTQ+ parents develop the same way their peers do, and may even have some advantages.)
Since becoming pope, Francis has not officially changed his stance. In 2013, a bishop reported that the pope was “shocked” by a civil union bill in Malta that would have allowed LGBTQ+ couples to adopt. The year after, Francis reiterated that children have “a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother” and warned against being tempted towards “the poisonous environment of the temporary.” As comparatively boundary-pushing as some of his other views might be, we wouldn’t expect Francis to change on this one anytime soon.
Does the Pope at least like my pets?
Bad news! Owning pets is also a metaphysical threat to the fabric of reality, even for straights. “Many, many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one — but they have two dogs, two cats,” Francis said in 2022, calling the trend a “denial of fatherhood or motherhood” that “diminishes us” and “takes away our humanity.” We can only imagine what the guy thinks of Sapphics who own more than one litterbox.
Complete Article ↪HERE↩!
— General Synod’s narrow vote in favour means services to celebrate gay marriages could be held within weeks
Dedicated church services to bless the weddings of same-sex couples could be held within weeks, after a narrow vote at the Church of England ruling body.
The General Synod backed a plan to hold standalone services of blessings for same-sex couples on a trial basis.
It means that gay Christians will be able to invite family and friends to a special service, which could be held on Saturdays, to bless and celebrate their weddings. Music, readings, confetti and other features would mean such services could look very similar to a standard church wedding.
The proposal for standalone services on a trial basis came in an amendment to a motion that noted progress made by bishops on the divisive issues of sexuality, known within the C of E as Living in Love and Faith. The amendment scraped through by one vote; the amended motion passed by 227 votes to 203.
Steven Croft, the bishop of Oxford, who proposed the amendment, said the “experimental” standalone services would be voluntary and no member of the clergy would be obliged to offer such services.
Last month, bishops agreed to commend special prayers of blessing for same-sex couples for use in existing church services. These are likely to begin before Christmas.
Bishops also agreed last month to begin a two-year process of authorising special standalone services under canon law.
The proposal for trial standalone services means they can begin at the same time as the process of permanent authorisation is under way.
In a joint statement, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, and Stephen Cottrell, the archbishop of York – who backed the amendment, said: “We have heard loud and clear, through an extensive debate over two days, the depth of feeling across the church on these hugely important questions.
“While this motion was passed, narrowly, we do not underestimate the depth of feeling and will reflect on all that we have heard as we seek to move forward together.”
Sarah Mullally, the bishop of London and co-chair of the Living in Love and Faith steering group, said: “The truth is – and as we have seen again today – that the Church of England is not of one mind on questions of sexuality and marriage.”
Bishops would now “consider how best to implement” the synod’s decision, she added.
Jayne Ozanne, a campaigner for equal marriage within the C of E, said the decision offered “tiny scraps of hope to LGBT+ people”.
She added: “The C of E remains deeply homophobic, whatever bishops and archbishops may say. I fear that much of the nation will judge the C of E as being abusive, hypocritical and unloving – they are, sadly, correct.”
Daniel Matovu, a barrister and a lay member of the synod, told members that the proposal was “contrary to and wholly inconsistent with God’s word”. He said the Bible made it clear that a male who sleeps with another male cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
The synod voted against a series of amendments seen by pro-LGBTQ+ campaigners as seeking further delay on the C of E’s glacial moves towards marriage equality. The church has been trying to avoid a split between progressives and traditionalists on the issues for more than 20 years.
Complete Article ↪HERE↩!
The first Catholic bishop in Germany has called on his priests and pastoral staff to hold blessing ceremonies for same-sex and remarried couples. The West German Diocese of Speyer announced on Friday that these were “blessing celebrations for people who love each other.” Against… pic.twitter.com/Ct40oJFlfc
— KNA (@KNA_Newsroom) November 3, 2023
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaimed, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”
Early in his papacy, Pope Francis told journalists: ” “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Citing those words, while expressing hope for future Synod on Synodality developments, a German bishop has officially asked his clergy to start performing rites blessing Catholics in same-sex relationships. He also included couples with secular divorces, as opposed to church annulments, who are then married outside the church.
“Both with regard to believers whose marriages have broken down and who have remarried, and especially with regard to same-sex oriented people, it is urgently time – especially against the background of a long history of deep hurt – for a different perspective,” wrote Bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann of the Diocese of Speyer (.pdf here), in a translation from the German posted by the Catholic Conclave weblog.< The goal, he added, is "a pastoral attitude … as many of you have been practicing for a long time. That's why I campaigned for a reassessment of homosexuality in church teaching in the Synodal Path and also voted for the possibility of blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples. I stand by that." The bishop stressed that new rites will not be "celebrating a sacrament, but rather about a blessing." This change in diocesan policy means that "no one who carries out such blessings has to fear sanctions." Performing these blessings will require "empathy and discretion," wrote Wiesemann. "It may be that the domestic setting (possibly also with the blessing of the shared apartment) is more suitable. … A blessing ceremony can also take place in the church," noted the bishop. "The celebration must differ in words and symbols from a church wedding and, as an act of blessing, should expressly reinforce the love, commitment and mutual responsibility that exists in the couple's relationship." At the end of recent Vatican meetings, Synod on Synodality participants released a 40-page report that didn't mention changes on hot-button topics such as married priests, the ordination of women as deacons and a range of LGBTQ+ issues. However, Bishop George Bätzing, president of the German bishops, noted signs of possible shifts in future synod sessions — even on "gender identity or sexual orientation" disputes that "raise new questions."
The head of Germany’s bishops, Bishop Georg Bätzing, said Sunday that the Synod on Synodality’s final text “is a big step for the universal Church” and that the wish of the synod to revise Catholic sexual ethics is an “enormous step forward.” He contended that an overwhelming… pic.twitter.com/kvCSJcOZUt
— Edward Pentin (@EdwardPentin) October 29, 2023
The global synod statement added: “Sometimes existing anthropological categories are not sufficient to grasp the complexity of what emerges from experience or from science, and therefore this calls for further investigation. We must take the necessary time for this reflection and devote the best of our energies to it, and not fall into simplistic judgments that hurt people or damage the body of the Church.”
Before this synod meeting, Pope Francis urged “pastoral charity” when considering same-sex blessings, adding that the “defense of objective truth” in ancient doctrines is not enough. “For this reason, pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing … that do not transmit a mistaken conception of marriage,” he wrote.
Now, Pope Francis has issued an apostolic letter – “Ad theologiam promovendam (to promote theology)” – seeking a “paradigm shift” to a “fundamentally contextual theology” that doesn’t settle for “abstractly re-proposing formulas and schemes from the past.”
This post-synod letter proclaimed: “Theology can only develop in a culture of dialogue and encounter between different traditions and different knowledge, between different Christian confessions and different religions, openly engaging with everyone, believers and nonbelievers.”
OCT 21 #Synod briefing: German Bishop Overbeck says: “We put Jesus Christ at the center of faith in a common quest without clinging to habits & traditionalisms which, if critically examined, have no priority in the hierarchy of truth, & this in the end is important to say.”👇1/4 pic.twitter.com/7HptSttJAU
— Diane Montagna (@dianemontagna) October 21, 2023
Bishops in Germany and other rapidly shrinking European churches have, in recent years, openly pushed for the modernization of Catholic doctrines on sexuality. Last year, bishops in Belgium approved a text allowing rites blessing same-sex couples. And 93% of participants in German sessions preparing for the Vatican synod backed a document (.pdf here) approving “blessing celebrations for people who love each other.”
During a synod press conference, Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen – a diocese with 321 parishes in 2002, but only 40 parishes in 2022 – said that if church “theology, the magisterium, or tradition” continues to ignore the “signs of the times,” modern Germans will stop listening, including young Catholics.
Asked to clarify, Overbeck added: “We put Jesus Christ at the center of faith in a common quest without clinging to habits and traditionalisms which, if critically examined, have no priority in the hierarchy of truth.”
Complete Article ↪HERE↩!
— A German bishop issued a letter last Thursday in which he asked pastors in his diocese to bless same-sex couples.
Bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann wrote to priests, deacons and lay pastoral workers saying that the blessings — which he also extended to remarried couples — could take place in churches in the Diocese of Speyer.
“The ceremony must differ from a church wedding ceremony in terms of words and signs and should explicitly reinforce the love, commitment, and mutual responsibility in the couple’s relationship as an act of blessing,” he wrote in the November 3 letter.
“It may be that the domestic setting (possibly also with the blessing of the shared apartment) is more suitable for receiving a blessing,” he added.
“A blessing ceremony can also take place in the church or at another suitable location. The celebration must differ in words and symbols from a church wedding and, as an act of blessing, should expressly reinforce the love, commitment and mutual responsibility that exists in the couple relationship.”
The bishop, who has led the diocese in southwest Germany since 2008, pointed out that 93 per cent of participants at the last meeting of the controversial German Synodal Way in March of this year, were in favour of enabling “blessing celebrations for people who love each other” and stressed an “urgency” to implement the blessings.
“For some time now, we have been striving in our diocese to provide pastoral care, touched and moved by God’s humanity, for couples who, for various reasons, cannot or do not want to receive the sacrament of marriage,” he continued.
“Based on my own long-standing pastoral experience, I am also moved by the great need and the deep longing of many, not infrequently, deeply religious people for God’s blessing and the church’s benevolent encouragement for their life together with all the searching, failure, new departures and happy finds – that is, with what makes human life so deeply fragile and precious at the same time.
“For me, Jesus’ instruction from the middle of the Sermon on the Mount “Judge not, lest you be judged” has increasingly become an essential key for a pastoral ministry based on the Gospel of Jesus, as have the oft-quoted words of Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge him?”
Wiesemann wrote: “Both with regard to believers whose marriages have broken down and who have remarried, and especially with regard to same-sex oriented people, it is urgently time — especially against the background of a long history of deep hurt — for a different perspective to find a pastoral attitude inspired by the Gospel, as many of you have been practicing for a long time.”
“That’s why I campaigned for a reassessment of homosexuality in Church teaching in the synodal way and also voted for the possibility of blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples. I stand by that. I hope that on the path of the global synod this pressing question of our time can also experience positive development.”
At the synod on synodality, Pope Francis addressed the topic of blessings for same-sex relationships in a reply to five dubia, or doubts, sent to him by cardinals ahead of the assembly in Rome.
The pope said it was a matter of pastoral prudence to “properly discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more people, that do not convey a misconception of marriage”.
“Decisions that may be part of pastoral prudence in certain circumstances need not be transformed into a norm,” he wrote. “In other words, it is not appropriate for a diocese, a conference of bishops, or any other ecclesial structure to authorise constantly and officially procedures or rules for every type of affair.”
In his letter, the bishop affirmed that “no one who conducts such blessing celebrations has to fear sanctions” and that by granting such “blessings,” “we give these believers a clear sign of God’s closeness in the community of the Church.”
He said he would “respect” when pastors “cannot reconcile a blessing with your conscience and understanding of faith” but also instructed them to “refer couples who ask for a blessing” to the diocese.
The 63-year-old bishop said that until the German bishops’ conference completed the handout, pastors should refer to a 52-page publication called “The celebration of blessings for couples,” produced by the AFK, an association for family education and pastoral care.
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— The guidance has already existed in draft form but delays are ongoing due to “further work” being needed
A group of 44 bishops have expressed hope guidance allowing priests to be in same-sex marriages will be issued “without delay”.
During a public statement made on Wednesday (1 November), the bishops made clear their overwhelming support of the issue.
According to The Church Times, the guidance has existed in draft form but delays are ongoing due to “further work” being needed.
Last month, a group of 12 bishops publicly dissented from a decision to commend blessings for same-sex couples.
“We long for the day when LGBTQIA+ people will know themselves to be unquestionably included in the life and all ministries of our Church”
However, progress appears to be close as the new group, who have backed guidance allowing same-sex marriages for priests, shared an open letter.
They wrote that they “recognise the complexities of the Pastoral Guidance in relation to ministry”.
But the 15 diocesan bishops and 29 suffragans say there is “also the need for a swift end to the current uncertainty for LGBTQIA+ clergy and ordinands”.
The group adds: “We look forward to Guidance being issued without delay that includes the removal of all restrictions on clergy entering same-sex civil marriages, and on bishops’ ordaining and licensing such clergy, as well as granting permissions to officiate.”
The same publication reported last week that such guidance existed in draft form, but that the House of Bishops had voted to delay its implementation for “further work” (News, 27 October).
In a statement, the 44 bishops stated that they were looking forward to the House of Bishops’ “refining, commending and issuing the Prayers of Love and Faith, such that the final version should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England”.
“We look forward to Guidance being issued without delay”
They went on to add: “We know that we will not all agree, but it is our longing that we will find a way that will recognise and honour our different perspectives and the gift we are to each other within the life of the Church of England, such that no one is expected to act against their conscience or theological conviction.”
They concluded: “In all of this we long for the day when LGBTQIA+ people will know themselves to be unquestionably included in the life and all ministries of our Church, and the contributions of each one of us fully accepted and celebrated as simply the offering of a fellow Christian.”
Earlier this year, Church of England bishops refused to allow priests to marry same-sex couples.
This came after a five-year consultation on the issue called Living in Love and Faith.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in England and Wales since 2013 yet the Church hasn’t followed suit in changing its doctrine: that marriage can be only between a man and a woman.
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