Catholic and LGBT Advocates Give Mixed Reactions to Pope Francis’ Remarks

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 5, 2016

Pope Francis’ latest comments on LGBT issues, in which he both called for more competent and case-by-case pastoral care for transgender people and said there was a “world war to destroy marriage,” have provoked strong reactions. Below, Bondings 2.0 features reactions from Catholics and LGBT advocates. You can read a report on the papal remarks by clicking here, and you can find New Ways Ministry’s response by clicking here.

Aoife Assumpta Hart

Aoife Assumpta Hart, a transsexual Catholic woman who is herself critical of “gender theory,” had been worried the Vatican would condemn trans identities and bar people from the Sacraments. But in view of the pope’s remarks, Hart wrote on her blog, Aoifeschatology:

“[My] canonical fate had not been foreclosed, and my Church was developing a more nuanced approach, one of encounter rather than dismissal… I could remain in the church I truly love and consider my life’s greatest treasure — being Catholic. Pope Francis offered to walk with me, not against me…” And in the Pope’s most recent comments — I read several moments of affirmation that enriches my belief that, with time, and patience and cooperation (from trans and non-trans faithful)… there still remains the Christian compromise of a merciful, rational, common ground for trans inclusion.”

James Martin cropped
Fr. James Martin

Fr. James Martin, SJ said in a Facebook Live conversation (see video below) on the America Magazine page:

“It seems like in his public pronouncements he’s still trying to come to understand it. One wonders who is speaking to him about this. I mean is he speaking to a lot of parents of transgender or gay children, or is he just hearing things anecdotally… It’s a struggle for him. I don’t think, though, that it’s a doctrinal struggle because I think that the main thing that he is recommending and encouraging priests and pastoral workers and everyone who works with the church to do is this accompaniment.”

Fr. Martin also cautioned against interpreting the pope’s remarks through only a Western lens where LGBT acceptance is increasingly common, commenting:

“Imagine reading this [in the Global South] and even parts of Europe where a bishop or a priest may be antipathetic to LGBT people, imagine reading this, this is quite a challenge… I think these are very big steps forward as far as I know.”

Finally, Fr. Martin saw Pope Francis’ remarks as validating LGBT ministries already being undertaken by Catholics:

“For people who are working with LGBT people, first to sort of take this as a kind of encouragement for your work against people who are saying that’s not an appropriate ministry or that’s not a real ministry or that’s not something you should be doing. And to continue this culture of encounter and accompaniment…I think [Pope Francis] has been very encouraging to people who do LGBT outreach.”


[Note: New Ways Ministry is awarding Fr. Martin its Bridge Building Award for his efforts to promote understanding and reconciliation in the church. If you are interested in attending or honoring Fr. Martin, more details are available here.]

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA said in a statement:

“Our Church leaders need to abandon the biological determinism that they have adopted, and accept that God’s imagination and love are greater than ours. We need our Shepherds to provide appropriate support, care, and guidance, rather than condemnation. We agree with Pope Francis that marriage is a ‘beautiful thing.’ LGBTQ people and allies join Church leaders in affirming marriage.”

Rev. Rodney McKenzie, Jr.

Rev. Rodney McKenzie, Jr. of the National LGBTQ Task Force called on Pope Francis to educate himself further, as reported by The Washington Blade:

“[M]illions of people are deeply hurt by what Pope Francis has said about transgender and gender non-conforming people, which reveals a profound lack of knowledge and empathy… We urge the pontiff to educate himself about the realities of transgender people’s lives and to welcome and affirm transgender and gender non-conforming people rather than reject and dehumanize them.”

In a statement from the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics,  Ruby Almeida, Co-Chair, said:

Ruby Almeida

“Pope Francis has softened his words when talking about sexual orientation and gender identity diversity. Nevertheless, in what he says, the Pope does reveals a level of  prejudice and a level of misunderstanding of the life experiences of LGBTI persons. GNRC would be most happy to start a dialogue with the Pope to enable  him to get a more holistic understanding of our community’s spiritual and pastoral needs.”

Kevin Clarke of America Magazine questioned how much further the pope could go on LGBT issues, saying:

Kevin Clarke

“It seems like the pope wants to have it all. There’s a point where you can only talk about outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as a pastoral requirement, a dictate of pastoral life, and then fully embracing LGBT people in the manner their hoping for. And I don’t know how much further along he can go on this path without getting into doctrinal issues and, frankly, disappointing people.”

Pope Francis’ treatment of LGBT issues remains muddled, and so it is not surprising that Catholic and LGBT advocates have responded both positively and negatively.

What do you think? Are these latest comments from the pope positive steps for LGBT Catholics or is any good overshadowed by the pope’s criticisms? You can leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.

7 thoughts on “Catholic and LGBT Advocates Give Mixed Reactions to Pope Francis’ Remarks

  1. aoifeschatology October 5, 2016 / 1:05 am

    Thank you kindly for citing me. I appreciate it very much.

  2. Wilhelm Wonka October 5, 2016 / 5:57 am

    Pope Francis is effectively telling LGBT people, in perhaps a more engaging way, what they’ve always heard about themselves from the Church: yes, I’m prepared to love you the sinner, but not your vile sin.

    I feel sorry for those LGBT people who are desperately seeking affirmation and acceptance from a man who patronizes them and raises false hope in them. Don’t give authority to Pope Francis to make you happy or unhappy; that is tantamount to idolatry.

  3. Thomas October 5, 2016 / 6:01 am

    Fr,James Martin has a point. We do tend to look at things through a western lens. Realizing that world views on some subjects are very different is appropriate. But the church here in this hemisphere must see the western world’s faithful differently,too. In Europe and many American towns and cities, church are nearly empty. People won’t listen to , or tolerate, a hostile and judgemental church. There is no war on marriage. One would think that the very idea of marriage, a commitment and a stable venture for any couple, would be welcomed.

  4. lynne miller October 6, 2016 / 8:02 am

    Considering Pope Francis’ age and background, I think he’s stretched himself a great deal in response to LGBTI challenges. He’s learning, as everyone is. Some of us are fortunate enough to have been planted in the US, where things tend to move more quickly than in some other, older cultures. And we, too, have our areas where change is slow. I think he personally wants to love everyone as Jesus has requested, but he also has to convince the larger Church, which is no mean feat! I believe he will continue to grow and change, and bless him for having the desire and the ability to do so at his age. We’re so blessed to have him!

  5. bnbliss October 6, 2016 / 10:49 am

    Reblogged this on 13 Past Midnight and commented:
    It is the work of Fr. Martin and others like him that allow me to continue on “trying to be the change I wish to see in the Church”. There is the inconveient Truth that Catholicism might not have ALL of the Truth but she is the most accurate reflection of the Truth we have. It is through the Grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in Her that will lead us to a more Loving and accurate reflection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

  6. eckhart67 October 6, 2016 / 12:43 pm

    I agree with Clarke’s position; hoping the pope will go any further than a bad “love the sinner hate the sin” nonsense is asking too much

  7. Eleanor Burns October 6, 2016 / 6:53 pm

    As a trans Christian one would obviously hope for more, but I think Fr. Martin’s point is hugely relevant …

    “Imagine reading this [in the Global South] and even parts of Europe where a bishop or a priest may be antipathetic to LGBT people, imagine reading this, this is quite a challenge …”

    Indeed, any softening of tone, even subtle, may be perceived as a bold move on the global scale of a faith that considers it imperative to preach a universal standard (and I am awfully spoiled, being myself of a church sufficiently devolved to be very liberal in my country).

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