New Ways Ministry Both Praises and Criticizes Pope Francis’ Latest LGBT Comments

The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, responding to Pope Francis’ October 2nd, 2016, remarks on LGBT topics.

Pope Francis’ latest plane interview on the pastoral accompaniment of LGBT people shows his profound sensitivity to the need for judging moral situations on a case-by-case basis. At the same time, his comments also reveal that he needs to abandon his reliance upon so-called “gender theory” and “ideological colonization,” ideas which do not fit reality.

Pope Francis makes a point during the October 2nd plane interview.

The pope’s call for more sensitive pastoral care is a bold step forward for the Catholic Church, but his comments about gender and education show his misunderstanding of what LGBT advocates actually propose.

On the first point, Francis’ model of pastoral ministry to people faced with a question of sexual morality or gender identity is not to ignore, condemn, or provide pat answers, as past church leaders have suggested. When helping people discern an answer to a vexing moral question, Pope Francis said ministers should “Welcome it, accompany it, study it, discerning and integrating.” And he is on target when he says that “This is what Jesus would do today.”

This model is one that should be adopted by bishops, priests, and pastoral ministers around the globe. It is a model that New Ways Ministry and many Catholic advocates for LGBT people have been proposing for decades, so it is refreshing to see that such ideas are now being shared at the highest levels of church authority. This model of ministry values the Church’s teachings on the primacy of conscience, and that recognizes all people as uniquely and wonderfully created by God.

On the second point about gender theory and ideological colonization, the pope’s remarks reveal that he thinks children are being encouraged to choose their genders in a frivolous way. That simply is not the case. Education around gender identity typically supports people whose life journeys show they have discovered, not chosen, a gender identity which is integrally consistent and permanent.

Similarly, his comments about marriage earlier in his trip indicate that he does not see that the real problems harming marriage are social, economic, religious, and personal ones. Throwing about terms such as “gender theory” and “ideological colonization” is a red herring. It deflects from examining the deeper causes of marital strife and deterioration.

Of transgender identities, the pope noted that “It is a moral problem. It is a problem. A human problem.” He is correct only in the sense that pressures to deny one’s true, interior gender identity cause great personal problems for individuals. The true moral solution is to allow such persons the freedom to choose whatever avenues they determine will be the ones that will integrate themselves psychologically, relationally, and spiritually, as God would want.


13 thoughts on “New Ways Ministry Both Praises and Criticizes Pope Francis’ Latest LGBT Comments

  1. John Hilgeman October 3, 2016 / 2:16 am

    Excellent statement!

    • Barry Blackburn October 3, 2016 / 10:41 am

      Yes! EXCELLENT. Another thoughtful analysis from Francis DeBernardo! Thank You Frank!

  2. Edward Poliandro October 3, 2016 / 3:49 am

    Excellent teaching piece, Frank! I will use other our groups. Ed

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. James Robert Green October 3, 2016 / 5:27 am

    Well done FrankŠ..very well done. Jim & bill

  4. Wilhelm Wonka October 3, 2016 / 5:35 am

    Your criticisms of Pope Francis’ words are far too tentative, and not a little servile.

    Be bold in counter-argument; not combative, but bold. Bold is honest; bold is good.

    A counter-argument that lacks spirit can sound half-hearted. No one was ever won over by half-heartedness.

  5. TogetherStyle October 3, 2016 / 7:07 am

    I think his message and history of acceptance of transgender people shows what he believes the moral problem is. The immorality of marginalization and transphobia of so many in the church.

  6. amagjuka October 3, 2016 / 12:31 pm

    Francis, your statement is right on point. When I hear some of the Pope’s comments, I try to think of my Dad. He was progressive, and really wanted to understand. At the same time, he was of a certain generation and mindset. The problem is that because the Pope does not really understand the biology and science involved with sexuality and gender identity, many of his comments are pretty tone deaf. The pastoral message the Pope promotes is extremely important for the Catholic church. Without a pastoral approach, young people will never stay in the church.

  7. JS (@JeramySinopoli) October 3, 2016 / 2:23 pm

    Excellent response Francis DeBernardo, I agree with every word you wrote.

    I speak Italian fluently and listened to that in flight conference with Pope Francis. From listening to his response, I feel that Francis still doesn’t understand that there is a difference between sexual orientation and sexual identity and that the two are not in any way the same issue. He seems to think that being gay is somehow connected to being transsexual/transgender. This is very troubling because it’s impossible for him or any other prelate to really comment or even pastor/accompany someone without an educated understanding of the basics.

    That Francis thinks a child would “read a book” and then decide he or she wants to change gender is simplistic and untrue. The child must innately suffer from gender dysphoria in order for the book to become an avenue toward a solution for him. The book isn’t the problem. Education isn’t the problem. Ignorance certainly is the problem. Unfortunately ignorance seems to be the case not only with Francis but a good number of prelates in the Catholic Church

    For anyone who speaks Italian and is interested , here is a video of Francis speaking at that in flight conference

    • Wilhelm Wonka October 3, 2016 / 5:14 pm

      A very insightful comment. And thank you for the link.

    • Friends October 3, 2016 / 9:23 pm

      I strongly support and endorse the vast majority of the above responsive comments (in this thread). Pope Francis, as much as he has done to humanize the social values and positions of the RCC, simply “DOES NOT GET IT” about the fact that sexual orientation is an incarnational inherent — just as much as one’s eye color, skin color, and chromosomal identity are incarnational inherents. Until he understands and accepts this incarnational fact, there is going to be open dissension (bordering on open rebellion) among those of us who experience what Francis simply DOES NOT personally experience. He’s 78 years old, and he is thus very much a man of his vanishing generation. God only knows — literally — who will succeed him, and what social attitudes and understandings the next Pope will bring to this globally influential office. We can only hope (and pray) for the election of a European Pope — a man perhaps in (say) his fifties — who will have a much better grasp of the “realpolitik” of the contemporary world.

  8. miriamtf October 4, 2016 / 12:07 am

    Right on, Francis DeBernardo!

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