‘Denigration of my humanity’

— Gay priests reflect on pope’s use of homophobic slur

Fr. Bryan Massingale, left, and Fr. Greg Greiten are pictured in 2017 photos.

by Katie Collins Scott

Fr. Bryan Massingale first admitted to himself he was gay at age 22 but came out many years later as a priest after hearing stories of LGBTQ Catholics from regions of the world where people face imprisonment, torture and death because of their sexuality.

He’d listened to delegates living in fear of such realities while attending a 2019 meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, a coalition of organizations from multiple continents.

“I knew I couldn’t ask them to continue to do their difficult, courageous and heroic work without taking a risk myself,” Massingale, a theologian at Fordham University in New York, told NCR. “I was moved to make a public declaration on my sexuality as a way of saying I need to also be willing to take a risk for a better church.”

The priest said the work needed to build up a better church was on his mind following the news that Pope Francis reportedly used a derogatory term when referring to gay men.

“I was shocked and saddened that a pope would speak this way,” said Massingale. “Because if what he said was true, this went beyond simply reaffirming traditional beliefs about sexuality and was an insult. Sexual slurs dehumanize people and are a denigration of my humanity and of the humanity of other sexual minorities.”

Pope Francis prays with Italian bishops in the Vatican synod hall during the general assembly of the Italian bishops' conference on May 20. (CNS/Vatican Media)
Pope Francis prays with Italian bishops in the Vatican synod hall during the general assembly of the Italian bishops’ conference on May 20.

Italian media quoted unnamed bishops who claimed that amid a closed-door meeting with the Italian bishops’ conference May 20, the pope, as he strongly reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s prohibition on gay men entering seminaries or being ordained priests, jokingly said, “there is already an air of faggotness” in seminaries. After a flurry of news and negative reactions, the Vatican issued an apology May 28.

“The pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he extends his apologies to those who were offended by the use of a term that was reported by others,” said Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni, who did not confirm or deny that Francis had used the term.

The alleged slur was most personal for gay priests, and in the days following the media firestorm, Massingale and Fr. Greg Greiten, a pastor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, described their thoughts and emotions about it — and about the gifts and pain of being an openly gay priest.

There is research that indicates around 30-40% of U.S. clergy are gay. Some say it’s a much higher percentage, with the majority choosing not to share their sexual orientation publicly.

Greiten came out to parishioners in 2017 during a homily, saying at the time he no longer wanted to live “in the shadow of secrecy.”

“I wanted and needed to be honest and authentic about who I am,” he told NCR in an interview May 29.

The immediate reaction to Greiten’s disclosure was a standing ovation, with one parishioner saying after Mass she “could care less” and loved him “for the person he is.”

Gregory Greiten
Fr. Gregory Greiten distributes Communion at his 25th anniversary celebration May 20, 2017.

For Massingale, too, responses from “those in the pews were absolutely, overwhelmingly supportive.”

The negative repercussions came from church officials, including bishops, the priests said.

Massingale recalled at least two occasions where, on account of being openly gay, a bishop told him he could not give a talk in his diocese and said several times he’d been disinvited from delivering an address. In one case he was not allowed to speak at a local seminary.

“How it was reported to me was the bishop was concerned that it would be giving a bad example to seminarians,” said Massingale.

‘I was shocked and saddened that a pope would speak this way. Because if what he said was true, this went beyond simply reaffirming traditional beliefs about sexuality and was an insult.’
—Fr. Bryan Massingale

Greiten said the biggest fear for him was always local church leadership. “In other places people have been removed for being public about their sexual identity, and I know gay priests who’ve gone into deep depression because a bishop was so horrible to them,” he said. “I was worried but I was ready because I wasn’t lying anymore.”

Greiten said he has not felt accepted or supported by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki — who in 2022 issued a sweeping policy on so-called gender theory — but the priest declined to share specifics on record so as not to jeopardize his ministry position.

“Speaking up and being open in the context of the church has its consequences,” he said.

In 2016, Fr. Warren Hall was banned from ministry by then-Archbishop John Myers of Newark, New Jersey. The archbishop claimed it was due to the priest’s advocacy work; Hall said it was because he was gay.

Massingale and Greiten both told NCR they appreciated the pope’s apology following his reported slur.

“I accept the fact that he did not intend to speak maliciously,” but it is important to draw a distinction between “the intent of this word and the impact of this word,” said Massingale. “And the impact of this word can only be negative.”

‘Speaking up and being open in the context of the church has its consequences.’
—Fr. Greg Greiten

The vice president of the Italian bishops’ conference said the pope’s comments were taken out of context and that Francis “is not homophobic and never was.” Vatican reporters also noted Italian is not the Argentine pope’s first language and that he regularly uses slang and speaks informally.

Greiten said the pope “is a very smart individual” and thinks it’s unlikely he didn’t understand the word fully or how he used it in a particular context.

It is language that ultimately reinforces “the horrific attitudes, stereotypes and discrimination directed toward the LGBTQ community from the hierarchy in the Catholic Church,” he said. “It is never OK. It is never a joke.”

Greiten added that it is “extremely painful and hurtful” for LGBTQ individuals like himself, “who have been on the receiving end of these offensive comments and attitudes for years while growing up.”

The pope previously has affirmed the church’s ban on gay men in seminaries, although the head of the bishops’ conference denied that in the May meeting Francis gave an absolute “no” on gay men entering seminary.

Pope Francis speaks to visitors in St. Peter's Square during his general audience May 29 at the Vatican. (CNS/Lola Gomez)
Pope Francis speaks to visitors in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience May 29 at the Vatican.

Early in his papacy Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” statement was in regard to the sexual orientation of priests and marked a decided shift in the Vatican’s discussion of LGBTQ individuals.

Massingale told NCR the recent episode with the pope shows the need for a frank discussion about gay men in the priesthood.

“It is a fact there are now and have always been many, many gay men who have served the church as priests and bishops faithfully, generously and well,” he said. “So I think we need to have an honest conversation about where this fear and suspicion of homosexuality in the priesthood is coming from.”

The bans on gay individuals in the seminary and in the priesthood are not working, “they are not effective,” said Massingale. “The only thing it’s doing is driving people to be dishonest in the process of seminary formation. That is not healthy for the young men in formation or healthy for the church.”

Fr. Bryan Massingale speaks during a June 8, 2022, online dialogue on "After Buffalo, After Uvalde, After Tulsa: Broken Hearts, Broken Nation, Faithful Action." The panel was sponsored by Georgetown University's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life. (CNS/YouTube)
Fr. Bryan Massingale speaks during a June 8, 2022, online dialogue on “After Buffalo, After Uvalde, After Tulsa: Broken Hearts, Broken Nation, Faithful Action.” The panel was sponsored by Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life.

Greiten agreed. The emphasis on silence around sexuality means seminarians “are not fostering integrity in their formation,” he said, adding that in his own life the secrecy was destructive.

Both Greiten and Massingale said they believe there is a fear and a mistaken belief that gay men are less capable of honoring the vow of celibacy than straight men.

“Show me the studies that are going to back up that belief,” said Greiten. “It’s not true.”

“Of course gay men and straight men can be a cause of scandal in the church when they fail to live up to their obligations,” Massingale said. “But that’s not about sexual orientation.”

If there’s a need to speak about priests leading holy, authentic lives versus those leading double lives, “that’s great, let’s have that conversation,” said Greiten. “But that’s a different issue than someone just being a gay candidate.”

In terms of the lasting impact of the pope’s word choice, a lot will depend on what occurs going forward, according to Massingale, who hopes the pope, “who has demonstrated a historic openness to the LGBTQ community,” will meet with gay men who are priests.

“So in that way the pope can know our trials and our joy, our struggles, and our hopes and dreams,” he said. “I think in that way we can move from this very unfortunate incident and make it an occasion of grace and an occasion of healing.”

Massingale also affirmed the ongoing work of the church.

“My belief is that this is all part of the birth pain of a new church coming to be,” he said. “Every church body that is moved to a more accepting or more open attitude for sexual minorities has gone through a messy and confusing period of turmoil.”

Massingale listed the Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Methodist churches as examples.

“In all those churches, gay clergy have been at times attacked and maligned,” he said. “Yet that was also part of the process by which the church came to a deeper understanding of human sexuality and of the truth of the Gospel.”

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis Tells Gay Man Rejected From Seminary to ‘Go Ahead With Your Vocation’

— The 22-year-old from La Spezia in northern Italy reportedly told the Pope about his belief he has a calling to the Catholic priesthood and how he was not accepted into seminary after revealing his sexual identity.

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on May 8, 2024.

By

Pope Francis has reportedly encouraged a 22-year-old gay man to continue to pursue a vocation to the priesthood after he was not accepted into a Catholic seminary.

According to the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, the Pope responded to an email from Lorenzo Michele Noè Caruso, telling him to “go ahead” with his vocation, just days after the Vatican issued an apology for the pontiff’s use of a slur in reference to seminarians who identify as gay.

The Pope’s handwritten note was sent June 1 as an email attachment. According to news reports, it condemned clericalism and worldliness and said: “Jesus calls all, all.”

According to Il Messaggero, Pope Francis told the 22-year-old that “some people think of the Church as a customs house, and this is terrible. The Church should be open to everyone. Brother, go ahead with your vocation.”

Caruso told Il Messaggero that he had sent a lengthy email to Pope Francis on May 28 in which he wrote that he wanted to draw attention to his story and the stories of many who, “like me, live at the margins of the Church, often forced to hide themselves to be included by the community or forced to pay the high price of refusal for being sincere.”

The 22-year-old from La Spezia in northern Italy reportedly told the Pope about his belief he has a calling to the Catholic priesthood and how he was not accepted into seminary after revealing his sexual identity. He also asked the Church to reconsider its prohibition on admitting homosexual people to the seminary as stated in a 2005 instruction from the Congregation for Catholic Education.

“This letter gave me hope,” Caruso said. “Now the seminary remains a not-dismissed dream.”

The Pope, in his note, also said he was struck by an expression Caruso used in his own email: “toxic and elective clericalism.”

“It’s true!” Francis continued. “You know that clericalism is a scourge? It’s an ugly ‘worldliness.’”

He added that “worldliness is the worst thing that can happen to the Church, worse even than the era of concubine popes,” attributing the quote to “a great theologian,” by whom he likely meant Jesuit Father Henri de Lubac.

The pontiff has frequently quoted or paraphrased Father de Lubac on spiritual worldliness.

“My whole story,” Caruso said, “has been studded with these responses, when a religious person discovered my sexuality, no matter how much he had appreciated my person and my faith up to a minute before, he would retreat, saying things like, ‘There are so many ways to decline a vocation.’ I was effectively denied the possibility of having a priestly vocation. ‘Continue,’ urges Pope Francis.”

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis’ F-word exposes Catholic Church

By The Rev. Irene Monroe

Pope Francis sent global shock waves when the news broke that he used the highly offensive F-word “frociaggine,” meaning “faggotness” in Italian. In a closed-door conversation at the Italian Bishops’ Conference in May, a discussion about whether to admit gay seminarians in preparation for the priesthood, the pontiff replied, “There is too much frociaggine in seminaries.”

The news of Francis using this particular homophobic and eyebrow-raising epithet hurt deeply many out-and-proud Catholic LGBTQ+ people hoping for full inclusion and acceptance by Pope Francis. “I imagine people like me are eating their optimistic words,” Nina Girgenti of Boston told me. But Nina’s optimism was not unfounded.

During the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor in Torvaianica, a run-down seaside town just 20 miles south of Rome, a community of transwomen, many of who are sex workers, received VIP seats as Pope Francis’ guests at the monthly lunch gatherings. Francis called for the decriminalization of homosexuality, lauded by LGBTQ+ advocates as a milestone that would help end harassment and violence against us, despite the pontiff still stating publicly that homosexual acts are a sin – though not a crime. During World Youth Day, Francis announced that the Church was for everyone. “There is space for everyone, and when there isn’t, please, let’s work so that there is. “ The Vatican also agreed to baptize transgender Catholics and allow them to be godparents.

The pope’s PR machine has come out with many incredulity-provoking excuses and tepid apologies for his gaffe. But this faux pas suggests “even if intended as a joke, the pope’s comment reveals the depth of anti-gay bias and institutional discrimination that still exist in our church,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said in a press release in solidarity with gay priests.

Church needs its gay priests

“The truth is that the church simply could not function without those countless gay priests, bishops and maybe even popes who currently serve and have served over the centuries,” Duddy-Burke said. I agree. The reality here is that the Catholic Church is a gay institution. And that is not a bad thing!

The homosocial and homosexual milieux of gay priests have been part of the life and operations of the Vatican and Catholic Church for centuries. Their strength to come out now as a formidable force within the hallowed walls of the Vatican is laudable on the one hand and a liability on the other hand – especially in terms of casting a gay suspicion on all priests as well as the potential to expose priests who want to remain in the closet.

“If they were to eliminate all those who were homosexually oriented, the number would be so staggering that it would be like an atomic bomb; it would do damage to the church’s operation,” said the late Richard Sipe, a former priest and psychotherapist who has been studying the sexuality of priests for decades. Sipe points out that to do away with gay priests “would mean the resignation of at least a third of the bishops of the world.”

The problem in the Catholic Church is not its gay priests, and its solution to the problem is not the removal of them. Years of homophobic church doctrine have made the Church unsafe for us all and have created a down-low culture.

Eugene Kennedy, a specialist on sexuality and the priesthood and a former priest, wrote in his book, “The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality,” that the Catholic Church “had always had gay priests, and they have often been models of what priests should be. To say that these men should be kept from the priesthood is in itself a challenge to the grace of God and an insult to them and the people they serve.”

Can we trust Pope Francis?

Once again, Francis is rocking the world and continuing to command attention with his liberal-leaning pronouncements. But the pontiff is a complicated, if not confusing, figure to LGBTQ+ people. On the surface, Francis displays a pastoral countenance to his papacy that seemingly extends to our community.

In 2013, responding to a question about a possible “gay lobby” in the Vatican, Francis said, “If they accept the lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?” Supporters and activists of the “gay lobby” in the Curia state emphatically that this brave and visible group is essential to the running of the Vatican as well as protecting themselves from the Church’s hypocrisy in scapegoating them for many of the social ills of the Church.

But Pope Francis is the consummate flip-flopper of our time. He doublespeaks on issues. He embraces the LGBTQ+ community, then he doesn’t. His pastoral demeanor cloaks the ironfisted church bureaucrat that he is. It’s not enough for Francis to say he embraces our community – privately or publicly. He must also do it.

Complete Article HERE!

‘Darkest period of my life’

— Gay conversion therapy in Italy

Rosario Lonegro says his time in the seminary was “the darkest period” of his life

By Davide Ghiglione

Rosario Lonegro was only 20 years old when he entered a Catholic seminary in Sicily as an aspiring priest preparing to be ordained. But while he was there he fell in love with another man and his superiors demanded that he undergo conversion therapy intended to erase his sexual preferences if he wanted to continue on the path to the priesthood.

“It was the darkest period of my life,” he told the BBC, recalling his seminary experience in 2017.

Haunted by guilt and fears of committing a sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church, Rosario said he “felt trapped with no choice but to suppress my true self”.

“The psychological pressure to be someone I was not was insurmountable. I could not change no matter how hard I tried.”

For more than a year, he was compelled to take part in spiritual gatherings outside the seminary, some over several days, where he was subjected to a series of distressing activities intended to strip him of his sexual proclivities.

These included being locked in a dark closet, being coerced to strip naked in front of fellow participants, and even being required to enact his own funeral.

During these rituals, he was tasked with committing to paper his perceived flaws, such as “homosexuality”, “abomination”, “falsehood” – and even more explicit terms, which he was then obliged to bury beneath a symbolic gravestone.

‘I thought I needed to be cured’

The World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1990. Subsequent scientific research has largely concluded that attempts to change sexual orientation are not only ineffective but also harmful.

In France, Germany and predominantly Catholic Spain, conversion therapies have been officially banned, and efforts are under way both in England and Wales to outlaw such practices.

Today in Italy, it’s nearly impossible to determine the precise extent of these practices, reported mostly by men, but some women too, and there is no standard legal definition of them.

In recent months, however, the BBC has conducted interviews with several young gay men across the country who have shared their experiences of being subjected to pseudoscientific group meetings or individual therapy sessions aimed at turning them into heterosexuals.

One 33-year-old man who attended this type of meeting for over two years expressed his initial motivation, saying: “I wanted to reconcile with myself. I didn’t want to be homosexual. I thought I needed to be cured.”

“I saw that as my sole path to acceptance,” said another. He was not trying to become a priest, but was simply seeking acceptance in his daily life.

Getty Images Priests make their way to wait in line to view the body of Pope John Paul II as it lays in state in the St Peter's Basilica April 5, 2005 in Vatican City
Experts say Italy is hesitant to ban the practices partly due to Italy’s strong Catholic influence

Gay conversion therapy is not limited to one specific region of Italy – group meetings and individual therapy sessions run across the country, some even run by licensed psychotherapists. In some cases, these gatherings and therapy sessions are unofficial and covert, often promoted through discreet conversations and secret referrals.

Other courses are publicly advertised, with known figures within Italy’s conservative circles actively seeking followers online and on social media platforms to promote their ability to change sexual orientations.

In Sicily, Rosario Lonegro was primarily subjected to meetings organised by the Spanish group Verdad y Libertad (Truth and Freedom), under the leadership of Miguel Ángel Sánchez Cordón. This group has since disbanded, having incurred the disapproval of the Catholic Church.

However, the Italian priest who originally pushed Lonegro into these practices was given a senior position within the Church, while others continued to draw inspiration from Sánchez Cordón’s methods in Italy.

Many of the people the BBC spoke to were referred to Luca di Tolve, a “moral/spiritual trainer” who gained recognition through his book titled “I was gay once. In Medjugorie I found myself”.

On his website, Di Tolve and his wife boast that they are a “contented couple” seeking to “aid anyone whose sexual identity is in turmoil, helping them to genuinely exercise their freedom in determining who they wish to be as a person”. When contacted by the BBC, Di Tolve did not respond.

Another active individual promoting ways to tackle perceived sexual orientation is Giorgio Ponte, a well-known writer in Italy’s ultra-conservative circles. He says he wants to help people overcome their homosexuality and be liberated, by telling his own story as a man with homosexual drives who is on his “potentially life-long” path to freedom.

“In my experience, homosexual attraction stems from an injury to one’s identity that conceals needs unrelated to the sexual-erotic aspect but rather tied to a distorted perception of oneself, reflecting across all aspects of life,” he told the BBC.

“I believe that a homosexual person should have the freedom to try [to become heterosexual], if they want, knowing, however, that it may not be possible for everyone,” he added.

‘When I kissed her it felt unnatural’

In recent years, dozens of young men and women have sought guidance from the likes of Di Tolve, Ponte and Sánchez Cordón. Among them is 36-year-old Massimiliano Felicetti, a gay man who grappled with attempts to change his sexual orientation for more than 15 years.

“I started to be uncomfortable with myself from a very early age, I felt I would never be accepted by my family, society, Church circles. I thought I was wrong, I just wanted to be loved, and these people offered me hope,” he said.

Felicetti said he had tried different solutions, consulting psychologists and clergy members who offered to help him become heterosexual. However, about two years ago, he decided to stop. A friar who knew of his struggle encouraged him to start dating a woman, but it didn’t feel natural.

“When I kissed her for the first time, it felt unnatural. It was time to stop pretending,” Felicetti said.

Only a few months ago he came out as gay to his family. “It took years, but for the first time I am happy to be who I am.”

Despite attempts from previous governments to promote a bill to oppose conversion therapies, no progress has been made in Italy. Italy’s right-wing government led by Giorgia Meloni has so far adopted a hostile stance toward LGBT rights, with the prime minister herself vowing to tackle the so-called “LGBT lobby” and “gender ideology”.

Such lack of progress comes as no surprise to Michele Di Bari, a researcher in comparative public law at the University of Padova, who says that Italy is structurally much slower to implement change compared with other countries in Western Europe.

“This is a very elusive phenomenon, given that it is a practice prohibited by Italy’s order of psychologists itself. Yet, in the Italian legal system, it is not deemed illegal. People carrying out such practices can’t be punished.”

Despite the complexity of the issue, experts believe that partly due to Italy’s strong Catholic influence, the country has been more hesitant to prohibit these controversial practices.

Getty Images A participant reacts next to a banner depicting Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni during the Pride March to show support for members of the LGBT community, in Milan on June 24, 2023.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government has adopted a hostile stance to LGBT rights in Italy

“This may be one of the elements that, along with a strongly patriarchal and male chauvinist culture, makes the broader understanding of homosexuality and LGBT rights more difficult,” said Valentina Gentile, a sociologist at Rome’s LUISS University.

“However, it is also fair to say that not all Catholicism is hostile to the inclusion of diversity and the Church itself is in a period of strong transformation in this regard,” she added.

Pope Francis has said that the Catholic Church is open to everyone, including the gay community, and that it has a duty to accompany them on a personal path of spirituality, but within the framework of its rules.

However, the Pope himself was reported to have used a highly derogatory term towards the LGBT community when he told a closed-door meeting with Italian bishops that gay people should not be allowed to become priests. The Vatican issued an official apology.

Rosario Lonegro has left Sicily behind and also lives in Milan. Following a nervous breakdown in 2018, he left both the seminary and the conversion therapy group.

While he still believes in God, he no longer wants to become a priest. He shares an apartment with his boyfriend, he studies philosophy and undertakes occasional freelance work to pay for university. However, the psychological wounds inflicted by such activities still run deep.

“During those meetings, one mantra haunted me and was repeated over and over: ‘God didn’t make me that way. God didn’t make me homosexual. It’s only a lie I tell myself,’ I thought I was evil,” he said.

“I will never forget that.”

Complete Article HERE!

The conflicted history of Pope Francis’ LGBTQ+ comments

— From ‘who am I to judge’ to ‘frociaggine’

What does Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, really think about the LGBTQ+ community?

By Emily Maskell

The Vatican is in hot water after Pope Francis is alleged to have recently used a homophobic slur during a meeting with bishops about allowing celibate gay men to train as priests.

In the behind-closed-doors meeting, the pontiff is believed to have said there was already too much “frociaggine” in seminaries, an Italian word which roughly translates as f****t.

The Vatican released an apology, insisting that the pope is a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.

A woman dressed as a clergywomen with rainbow umbrella
Are LGBTQ+ people accepted in the Catholic Church?

“As he stated on several occasions: ‘In the Church, there is room for everyone. Nobody is useless, nobody is superfluous, there is room for everyone. Just as we are, all of us’,” a spokesperson said.

“The pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he apologises to those who felt offended by the use of a term reported by others.”

This recent controversy has reignited discussion about the religious leader’s tenure and his relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. So, what has Francis actually said about LGBTQ+ people in the past?


Who am I to judge them?

Pope Francis waves to faithful gathered St.Peter’s Square for a Mass
Pope Francis’ has voiced both pro and anti comments on LGBTQ+ issues.

In 2013, the pope opened up a dialogue surrounding gay priests in what was a radical statement.

“If [gay priests] accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalised. The tendency [same-sex attraction] is not the problem… they’re our brothers.”

However, he reiterated his support for Catholic Church’s universal catechism, which states that while being gay is not sinful, homosexual acts are.

“The catechism explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalised because of this, but that they must be integrated into society,” Francis said.


Trans people can be godparents

Pope Francis
Pope Francis has confirmed that trans people can be baptised.

While 2013 marked a watershed moment for LGBTQ+ relations with the Catholic Church, a decade later the pope still vacillates between pro and anti-queer comments.

Just last year, Francis said trans people can take part in Catholic practices such as being baptised and acting as godparents or witnesses to marriage, under the same conditions as any other adult.

There was “nothing in current universal canonical legislation that prohibits” a transgender person, or any LGBTQ+ person, from serving as a witness at a Catholic marriage, he explained. However, a Vatican document, signed by the pope, highlights that for trans people, this is an honour not a right and should be avoided “if there is a risk of scandal, of undue legitimation or disorientation in the educational field of the ecclesial community”.

Nonetheless, this still marked a major stepping stone in the Church’s acceptance of transgender people.


Blessing same-sex unions

Pope Francis
Gay rights groups celebrated Pope Francis’s declaration that the Catholic church is open to blessing same-sex unions.

Late last year, in a reversal of the Church’s traditional stance, the pontiff – also known as the Bishop of Rome – announced that same-sex couples could have their unions blessed under certain circumstances.

But the Vatican also said that while same-sex couples could be blessed, such ceremonies should not be part of regular Church rituals or related to civil unions or weddings, and the Church continued to view marriage as between a man and a woman.

However, this message of acceptance marked a turning point for many LGBTQ+ Catholics.

In a letter explaining his stance, Francis said the clergy must use “pastoral prudence” and “pastoral charity” to guide their responses to same-sex couples who request a blessing.

GLAAD president and chief executive Sarah Kate Ellis hailed the decision as “both unprecedented and compassionate”.


Pope Francis will bless LGBTQ+ people but not their unions

Pope Francis presides over the meeting ‘Arena of Peace’ at the Verona's Arena on May 18, 2024 in Verona, Italy
Pope Francis clarified that he supports blessings for LGBTQ+ people despite being against same-sex marriage

A few months on from the news of the pope’s acceptance of same-sex union blessing, he clarified that he supported blessing LGBTQ+ people, but not their unions.

“That cannot be done because that is not the sacrament,” he explained. “To bless a homosexual-type union goes against the given right, against the law of the Church. But to bless each person, why not? Some people were scandalised by this. But why?”


Same-sex critics are hypocritical 

Pope Francis wears his white cassock while he sits on a white and gold chair during mass
Pope Francis said homosexuality is “not a crime” and stressed that “criminalisation is neither good nor just”.

The pope has denounced the criticism of same-sex blessings. Commenting on the backlash from conservative bishops and dioceses, Francis believed those who disagree with the decision [were] showing “hypocrisy.”

According to Vatican News, the pope said: “I do not bless a ‘homosexual marriage’, I bless two people who care for each other, and I also ask them to pray for me.

He went on to say that the “gravest of sins” one could commit was not homosexuality, but being someone who “disguises themselves with a more ‘angelic’ appearance.


‘Gender ideology’ is ‘dangerous’

Pope Francis in Rome
Pope Francis has labelled “gender ideology” as “dangerous”.

His stance on gender is somewhat different.

The pontiff has described so-called gender ideology as one of the “most dangerous colonisations.”

Little more than a year ago, he said it “goes beyond the sexual” and “the question of gender is diluting the differences and making the world the same, all dull, all alike”, adding: “Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women, [it] is contrary to the human vocation.

“[Gender ideology] eliminates differences, and that erases humanity, the richness of humanity, personal, cultural and social.”


Banning surrogate pregnancies 

Pope Francis delivers a speech in Rome on June 13, 2016.

In 2008, the pope called for a blanket ban on surrogate pregnancies, describing them as “exploitation” and a “violation” of dignity.

“I deem deplorable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs,” he said.

“Consequently, I express my hope for an effort by the international community to prohibit this practice universally.”


Welcoming trans people to the Vatican 

The Pope dines with trans women
The Pope dined with a group of trans women during lunch with the poor for the 2023 World Day of the Poor.

Last year, Francis welcomed trans women, along with 1,000 poor and homeless guests, to a Vatican lunch to mark the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor.

Trans former sex worker Claudia Vittoria Salas was seated at the same table as the pope.

He also met with a trans group in the Vatican in 2022. Sister Genevieve Jeanningros and local priest Andrea Conocchia reportedly said the meetings had given the group hope.


Sacking a conservative bishop over LGBTQ+ inclusion

LGBTQ+ advocates rally together in support of trans rights as Republican lawmakers in Texas try to push back on the trans community and access to gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth in the state
In 2023, human rights group teamed up to complain to the UN about Texas’s anti-LGBTQ+ bills.

Last year, in a move seen as aligning the pope as an LGBTQ+ ally, he “relieved” Bishop Joseph Strickland, from eastern Texas, of his position as head of the Diocese of Tyler.

The decision came after Strickland said Francis was “undermining the deposit of faith” and was a “diabolically disordered clown”.

Strickland had also criticised the pope’s moves to make the Church more welcoming for LGBTQ+ Catholics, describing the plan as a “travesty.”< Complete Article HERE!