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!

Catholic diocesan hermit approved by Kentucky bishop comes out as transgender

— Matson is thought to be the first openly transgender person in his position in the Catholic Church.

Brother Christian Matson is a Catholic diocesan hermit in Kentucky.

By

Diocesan hermits by nature don’t get much attention. A small subset of religious persons, hermits mostly spend their lives engaged in quiet prayer.

Brother Christian Matson, a Catholic diocesan hermit in Kentucky, has spent years doing just that. His monk’s habit might catch his neighbors’ eye, but he is known in the town where he lives primarily through his work with the local theater.

But recently Matson decided that his faith compels him to make a little more noise than usual.

“This Sunday, Pentecost 2024, I’m planning to come out publicly as transgender,” Matson told Religion News Service on Friday (May 17), saying he was speaking out with the permission of his bishop, John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington in Kentucky.


Matson, who is also a Benedictine oblate, believes he is the first openly transgender person in his position in the Catholic Church. It is a difficult claim to confirm — even Stowe told RNS he did not know for sure if Matson is the first — but Matson’s status is at least highly unusual, and comes at time when church officials are grappling with how to address transgender Catholics.

According to Matson, 39, his “disclosing,” as he describes it, is a moment years in the making. He offered his story as indicative of the often difficult path for trans Catholics, including those seeking life as a religious — a category that includes brothers and nuns.

“I am currently based in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky,” he wrote in an email to friends and supporters on Sunday. “I live in a hermitage at the top of a wooded hill, which I share with my German Shepherd rescue, Odie, and with the Blessed Sacrament, which was installed in my oratory shortly before Christmas.”

Raised in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Matson converted to Catholicism in 2010 — four years, he noted, after transitioning in college, a step he refers to as a part of his “medical history” rather than a “central part of my personal identity.” After his conversion, Matson felt called to minister to people working in the arts, but knew he would encounter “issues” because of a 2000 Vatican document that, according to a Catholic News Service report from the time, declared that anyone who had undergone “sex-change” was ineligible “to marry, be ordained to the priesthood or enter religious life.”

Matson approached a canon lawyer to discuss his options and was told that only two aspects of Catholic life were categorically off the table: marriage and the priesthood. According to Matson, the canon lawyer recommended being upfront about his status as a transgender man in any vocational conversations with church leaders and noted the role of a diocesan hermit, which may prove less challenging enlisting with an existing religious order.

The canon lawyer, Matson said, effectively conveyed to him “there’s no problem as long as there’s a bishop who will accept you, because there’s no distinction by sex and you’re not in a community — you’re by yourself.”

What followed was roughly a decade of searching and no small amount of rejection. Living in the United Kingdom while pursuing a master’s degree and later a Ph.D. in theology, Matson entered a vocational discernment program and approached the Jesuit order to ask if he could join.

“They said, ’No, we just don’t see how this would work for us,’ which was crushing, because that’s where I felt called,” Matson said.

Other communities offered similar responses, when they responded at all. “People who knew me said, ‘You clearly have a religious vocation,’ and these were all people who knew my medical history,” Matson said. “But when they would go to the people in the community in charge of making that decision, they … would often just refuse to even meet with me.”

In one instance, Matson said, a religious leader declined to meet simply to hear his experience as a trans man, saying doing so would be “a waste of time.”

But Matson’s call to religious life wouldn’t abate. While visiting a monastery during a retreat, he found himself unable to sleep, consumed with the idea of starting “a religious community of and for artists — artists who are living together, (operating) in the church through their art, and ministering to the loneliness and sense of precarity many artists experience.”

In 2015, he returned to New York City, where he had attended college. Having already taking private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience — witnessed by his spiritual director — before he arrive, he co-created a nonprofit called the Catholic Artist Connection. The group hosted retreats and connected artists to resources such as the Archdiocese of New York’s Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, where Matson began working as a programming associate.

Matson kept running into artists who wanted to pursue religious life, he said, and continued to feel the tug himself. But roadblocks kept appearing. “As I spoke to friends in the archdiocese, I knew somebody with a trans background was never going to be accepted into religious life in the Archdiocese of New York,” Matson said.

He tried again after a move to Minnesota in 2018, but his entreaties to various religious communities and orders were also rejected.

“I thought, well, if I can’t find a religious community to sponsor me, maybe what I need is a bishop,” Matson said.

A priest friend recommended different bishops to contact, beginning with Stowe, who was emerging as a leading voice among Catholics calling for a more tolerant approach to LGBTQ people. In 2020, Matson sent Stowe a letter, conveying his status as a transgender man, his vision for an artists’ community and his pull to religious life.

Stowe wrote back immediately, expressing his openness.

“It was an enormous relief,” Matson said. “I was in tears. I felt my hope revive.”

Stowe confirmed Matson’s account, saying the then-aspiring brother was recommended to him by a number of people.

“My willingness to be open to him is because it’s a sincere person seeking a way to serve the church,” Stowe said of Matson. “Hermits are a rarely used form of religious life … but they can be either male or female. Because there’s no pursuit of priesthood or engagement in sacramental ministry, and because the hermit is a relatively quiet and secluded type of vocation, I didn’t see any harm in letting him live this vocation.”

He added that Matson’s spiritual journey was “consistent with the calling of that particular vocation.”

Bishop John Stowe. (Video screen grab)
Bishop John Stowe.

Matson moved to Kentucky, having already made progress on Stowe’s suggestion that he link up with an additional community through which to experience religious life. Matson entered the novitiate at a Benedictine monastery in 2021, hoping the formation offered by that path would eventually help him form a new religious community for artists.

Finally, in August 2022, Matson took his first vows as a diocesan hermit — a yearlong commitment — under Stowe’s direction.

For the next year, Matson “lived a life of basically spending half the day in prayer and half the day doing some form of work” that included producing and writing at a local theater.

Three years earlier, Matson read with frustration a document issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education titled “Male and Female He Created Them: Toward a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education.” The instructional letter rejected “calls for public recognition of the right to choose one’s gender.”

In 2021, the Diocese of Marquette, in Michigan, followed with its own instruction to priests to refuse transgender people asking to be baptized or confirmed until they have “repented.”

“It was suddenly becoming a lot more difficult in the church to be trans,” Matson said.

The Rev. Andrea Conocchia, center, introduces members of the Torvaianica transgender community to Pope Francis on Aug. 11, 2022, during the pope’s general audience at the Vatican. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Conocchia)
The Rev. Andrea Conocchia, center, introduces members of the Torvaianica transgender community to Pope Francis on Aug. 11, 2022, during the pope’s general audience at the Vatican.

But tolerance seems to be growing in some quarters. While Pope Francis has opposed elements of gender theory and recently called its proposals “ugly,” he has also met and dined with groups of transgender people.

In November 2023, the Vatican doctrine department ruled that transgender people may be baptized and serve as witnesses at Catholic weddings, so long as doing so “doesn’t cause scandal among the faithful.”

In the United States in March, a coalition led by Catholic nuns released a letter voicing support for transgender, nonbinary and gender-expansive individuals, implicitly rebuking a statement put forward by group of U.S. Catholic bishops discouraging Catholic health care groups from performing various gender-affirming medical procedures.

But overall, “Vatican-level documents that have come out on the subject have not engaged with the science at all,” Matson said, adding that he believes many diocesan-level statements are inconsistent in their attempts to categorize gender and cite scientific studies misleadingly. Matson has sent multiple private letters to Vatican offices, urging them to engage with transgender people and arguing that the church can embrace transgender people while maintaining orthodoxy.

As trans rights began to be debated in statehouses across the United States in recent months, conservative lawmakers have begun pushing bans on providing gender-affirming care for youth and, in some cases, adults.

Matson vented his frustrations to Stowe and his spiritual director, saying he wanted to speak out. But he said he was advised to first “build a foundation” in religious life for several years.

During that time, Matson had an experience that shook him. Attending a friend’s play in his religious habit, he was approached by a student who identified as trans and nonbinary. After asking if Matson was a monk, the student said they were raised Catholic, but that their parents had rejected their identity, and the student felt like they “don’t have a place in the church anymore.”

Matson responded by saying there were people in the church who would support the student, and Matson prayed with them, asking God to show the student how they are “wonderful the way you’ve made them.” The student, Matson said, grew emotional, thanking the hermit profusely and saying, “No one from the church has ever affirmed me for who I am.”

Matson, who renewed his vows in 2023, eventually began mulling a date to go public with his status. “I have to say something,” Matson told his spiritual director. He settled on Pentecost, which emphasizes preaching “the good news of God’s love to everyone,” he said. It was also the day in the church calendar when he’d been baptized years before.

“I can’t stand by and let this false and, at times, culpably ignorant understanding of what it means to be transgender continue to hurt people,” he said. “If I don’t say anything and allow the church to continue to make decisions based on incorrect information, then I’m not serving the church.”

Both Matson and Stowe said they are bracing for blowback after Sunday’s announcement. Matson said he is largely unconcerned with “online trolls” but is sensitive to people who are “legitimately concerned” that “accepting a trans person into religious life means Catholic anthropology gets thrown out the window.”

For people with such concerns, he said, he looks forward to engaging in dialogue. “I don’t have a hidden agenda, I just want to serve the church,” he said. “People can believe that or not.”


Both the hermit and his bishop are prepared for the possibility that church officials may push for Matson’s removal. Stowe acknowledged that “if I’m told to by higher authorities, then I will have to deal with that at the time.”

Matson bristled at the idea of leaving the church, which he called “my family.” “I’m Catholic,” he said. “I became Catholic after I transitioned because of the Catholic understanding — the sacramental understanding — of the body, of creation, of the desirability of the visible unity of the church, and primarily because of the Eucharist.”

At the very least, Matson said, he hopes going public will spark dialogue about his fellow transgender Catholics, a discussion he believes can enhance unity among the body of believers.

“You’ve got to deal with us, because God has called us into this church,” he said. “It’s not your church to kick us out of — this is God’s church, and God has called us and engrafted us into it.”

Complete Article HERE!

The Vatican’s Statement on Gender Is Unsurprising, and a Missed Opportunity

— A new document that strives to reconsider matters of human dignity nevertheless echoes Church rhetoric from decades ago.

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The arc of Vatican rhetoric on sexual issues is long, and it doesn’t bend much at all. On October 30, 1986, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a letter to bishops, “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” which was signed by the office’s prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. In 1975, the C.D.F., formerly known as the Holy Office, had made a distinction between the homosexual “condition” and homosexual acts, calling the latter “intrinsically disordered.” A result, the 1986 letter lamented, was that in the following years “an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good.” Then the C.D.F. got to the main point: “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder” and as “essentially self-indulgent.” The October 30th document came to be known as the Halloween Letter. At a grim moment in the aids pandemic, the Catholic Church, with an opportunity to show compassion to gay men, instead used terse, forbidding language to reaffirm its teaching against gay sexual activity and “the homosexual condition itself.”

Much has changed in the Church’s approach in the thirty-eight years since. The U.S. bishops eventually issued a statement framed as “a response to the H.I.V./aids crisis,” taking a kinder, gentler tone than that of the C.D.F. letter. Lesbians and gay men, including the Catholic writer Andrew Sullivan, initiated a movement for gay marriage, and it gained force, with gay marriage eventually becoming recognized by the U.S. government, and by nations worldwide. Pope Francis, four months after his election, in 2013, said, of gay clergymen, “Who am I to judge?” He spoke approvingly of civil protections for a gay couple in a 2019 interview with a Mexican broadcaster. He met with transgender women in St. Peter’s Square and received them again at a luncheon in the Vatican. In October, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, or D.D.F.—an office that replaced the C.D.F., as part of a reorganization of the Roman curia—answered a Brazilian bishop’s query by affirming that transgender people can be baptized and can serve as godparents “under certain conditions.” In December, the D.D.F. issued “Fiducia Supplicans,” a document authorizing priests to bless people living in “irregular situations” and “couples of the same sex.” Catholic traditionalists decried the document; a group of bishops in Africa issued a joint statement saying that they would not allow such blessings in their dioceses. Yet, through all this, the Vatican did not alter its official characterization of homosexuality as an “objective disorder,” nor its declaration (found in “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” from 1992) that “everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity”—the biological sex he or she is born with, that is.

When Francis was elected, the doctrinal office was run by Archbishop Gerhard Müller, a traditionalist who had been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI—the former Cardinal Ratzinger. Müller eventually set himself against the new Pope, suggesting, for example, that Francis’s apparent solicitude, in the 2016 apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” toward Catholics who divorced and remarried was at odds with Church teaching. In 2017, Francis declined to renew Müller’s appointment, and promoted his deputy, Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, a Spanish Jesuit. Finally, last July, after the D.D.F. was reorganized, Francis appointed his own close associate, Víctor Manuel Fernández, a fellow-Argentine who was then an archbishop, to lead it. In a public letter to the new prefect, Francis warned against a “desk-bound theology” infused with “a cold and harsh logic that seeks to dominate everything.” He urged the D.D.F. to be open to fresh “currents of thought in philosophy, theology, and pastoral practice” and stressed that the office must maintain Catholic doctrine, “but not as an enemy who critiques and condemns.” Francis made Fernández a cardinal in September. In October, the Vatican hosted a monthlong Synod on Synodality assembly, which brought some four hundred and fifty Church leaders from around the world to Rome, to take part in daily sessions meant to foster a “listening” and “discerning” Church. The synod process (which began in local churches worldwide in 2021) was promoted as a key initiative of Francis’s pontificate, and as a new way of proceeding for the Vatican.

This Monday, the D.D.F. released “Dignitas Infinita,” a document, five years in preparation, about “the dignity of the human person in Christian anthropology.” Its release was expected, and it was characterized by the press as unsurprising—“something of a repackaging of previously articulated Vatican positions, read now through the prism of human dignity,” as Nicole Winfield, an Associated Press correspondent based in Rome, put it. The document reiterates the Church’s stands against abortion and euthanasia, and amplifies its opposition to surrogate motherhood and what it calls “sex change” procedures. But, for the first time in a document of this stature, it groups those practices with broader phenomena that the Church opposes, such as war, economic inequality, human trafficking, “the marginalization of people with disabilities,” cruelty to migrants, violence against women, sexual abuse, and the death penalty, among others. According to Fernández, last November Pope Francis urged the office to make the document present issues connected to matters of human dignity, the personal and the social, as parts of a whole—a striking departure from the Church’s way of framing issues involving the body in terms of individual moral conduct. This approach has upset many for seeming to establish false equivalences. But the document has been praised in the Catholic press: the news site Crux saw it “uniting Pope Francis’s progressive social agenda with the traditional moral and ethical concerns of his predecessors.

The document is thick with citations of past statements by Francis, Benedict, and Pope John Paul II. Building on last December’s blessing of “couples of the same sex,” it affirms the Church’s opposition to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But it complains that “the concept of human dignity is occasionally misused to justify an arbitrary proliferation of new rights.” It denounces “gender theory” for seeking to obscure, or do away with, the “foundational” quality of “sexual difference,” which belongs to the body created “in the image of God,” and it rejects any “sex-change intervention,” insisting that respect for one’s humanity must begin with respect for the body “as it was created.”

While “Dignitas Infinita” is the most important statement to be issued by the D.D.F. under the new prefect, it is best seen as a final expression of the old C.D.F.’s admonitory approach. For example, the fresh social emphasis Francis evidently sought to give it by grouping sex and gender with affronts to human dignity serves instead to point up the offhand, ad-hominem quality of its remarks on gender identity. Consider this passage: “Desiring a personal self-determination, as gender theory prescribes . . . amounts to a concession to the age-old temptation to make oneself God, entering into competition with the true love of God revealed to us in the Gospel.” In the nearly twelve-thousand-word text, that passage stands out both for its extreme rhetoric and its denunciation of individual behavior. It comes amid a dense, footnoted passage about the interaction of gender theory and human rights; suddenly the reader is presented with a citation-free sketch of an abstract individual, as imagined by a curial official. This individual is not credited with any effort of reflection or discernment—not seen as striving to join the physical and social aspects of personhood to the inward person (which some trans people identify as the God-given person), or as seeking to reconcile body and soul, as Christian believers have always sought to do. This individual is simply said to be succumbing to the temptation “to make oneself God.” Thus gender identity, whose complexities call for a complex response informed by emerging currents of thought, is fit into the Vatican’s textbook critique of post-Enlightenment social movements, and reduced to one more iteration of individual self-determination run amok—the way the Vatican characterized gay life a generation ago.

At a press conference about the new document, when Winfield from the A.P. asked Cardinal Fernández whether the Church might consider withdrawing the term “intrinsically disordered,” the prefect admitted that the phrase “needs to be explained a lot” and added, “Perhaps we could find a clearer expression.” Indeed, the arc that the Vatican’s approach to homosexuality has taken in the past four decades—from a “condition” to be dealt with to a way of being that can be blessed—might have prompted the D.D.F.’s theologians, as they give greater attention to gender-identity issues, to consider adopting some nuance and a stance of humility toward them.

Fortunately, there is an opportunity for the Vatican to really change its approach. At last October’s Synod gathering, participants discussed sex and gender intermittently, but their comments were largely kept out of the summary document, which emphasized procedural matters. This October, the participants will return to Rome for another month of collective listening and discernment. This time, gender identity should be firmly on the agenda. With that singular passage in the new document, the Vatican has put it there.

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican to publish document on gender, surrogacy and human dignity next week

By Nicole Winfield

The Vatican will publish a document next week on gender theory and surrogacy that was announced in a bid to respond to opposition from conservatives over Pope Francis’ willingness to bless same-sex unions.

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, will hold his first news conference to present the document “Infinite Dignity, on human dignity,” on April 8, the Vatican announced Tuesday.

Fernández, who is very close to Francis, revealed the declaration was in the works after he came under criticism for the roll-out of a December document from his office authorizing priests to offer non-liturgical blessings to same-sex couples.

Conservative bishops, including entire national bishops conferences in Africa, blasted the document as contrary to biblical teaching about homosexuality and said they wouldn’t implement it.

Fernández, who is from Argentina, has said in various media interviews since then that the new document will offer a strong critique of “immoral tendencies” in society today, including surrogacy, sex changes and gender theory.

While Francis has made a hallmark of his papacy to reach out to LGBTQ+ people, he has also strongly denounced what he calls “gender ideology.” He has in particular railed against what he says is the tendency of Western countries to impose their values about gender and sexuality on the developing world as a condition for economic aid.

Francis has also called for a global ban on surrogacy, saying the practice exploits the economic needs of the surrogate mother and violates the dignity of mother and child.

People say they’re leaving religion due to anti-LGBTQ teachings and sexual abuse

— The PRRI poll found that the vast majority of those who are unaffiliated are content to stay that way. Just 9% of respondents say they’re looking for a religion that would be right for them.

Symbols of the three monotheistic religions

By Jason DeRose

People in the U.S. are leaving and switching faith traditions in large numbers. The idea of “religious churning” is very common in America, according to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).

It finds that around one-quarter (26%) of Americans now identify as religiously unaffiliated, a number that has risen over the last decade and is now the largest single religious group in the U.S. That’s similar to what other surveys and polls have also found, including Pew Research.

PRRI found that the number of those who describe themselves as “nothing in particular” has held steady since 2013, but those who identify as atheists have doubled (from 2% to 4%) and those who say they’re agnostic has more than doubled (from 2% to 5%).

This study looks at which faith traditions those unaffiliated people are coming from.

“Thirty-five percent were former Catholics, 35% were former mainline Protestants, only about 16% were former evangelicals,” says Melissa Deckman, PRRI’s chief executive officer. “And really not many of those Americans are, in fact, looking for an organized religion that would be right for them. We just found it was 9%.”

That these people are not looking for a religion has, Deckman says, implications for how and even whether houses of worship should try to attract new people.

Among other findings: The Catholic Church is losing more members than it’s gaining, though the numbers are slightly better for retention among Hispanic Catholics.

There is much lower religious churn among Black Protestants and among Jews who seem overall happy in their faith traditions and tend to stay there.

As for why people leave their religions, PRRI found that about two-thirds (67%) of people who leave a faith tradition say they did so because they simply stopped believing in that religion’s teachings.

And nearly half (47%) of respondents who left cited negative teaching about the treatment of LGBTQ people.

Those numbers were especially high with one group in particular.

“Religion’s negative teaching about LGBTQ people are driving younger Americans to leave church,” Deckman says. “We found that about 60% of Americans who are under the age of 30 who have left religion say they left because of their religious traditions teaching, which is a much higher rate than for older Americans.”

Hispanic Americans are also more likely to say they’ve left a religion over LGBTQ issues. Other reasons cited for leaving: clergy sexual abuse and over-involvement in politics.

The new PRRI report is based on a survey of more than 5,600 adults late last year.

About one-third of religiously unaffiliated Americans say they no longer identify with their childhood religion because the religion was bad for their mental health. That response was strongest among LGBTQ respondents.

The survey also asked about the prevalence of the so-called “prosperity Gospel.” It found that 31% of respondents agreed with the statement “God always rewards those who have good faith with good health, financial success, and fulfilling personal relationships.”

Black Americans tend to agree more with these theological beliefs than other racial or ethnic groups. And Republicans are more likely than independents and Democrats to hold such beliefs.

Complete Article HERE!