Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, advised a young transgender person that they are loved by God unconditionally, even while rejecting the idea that a person’s gender identity can differ from their biological sex.
The pontiff took part in a two-part podcast called the “Popecast,” in which responded to audio recordings of young Catholics asking him questions. One message came from Giona, an Italian Catholic in their early 20s who identifies as transgender.
“[I am] torn by the dichotomy between faith and transgender identity, both arms of the same body, mine,” Giona told Francis.
“God loves us as we are,” the Pope replied. “God caresses us, he always caresses. God is Father, Brother to all. It is difficult for us to understand this, but he loves us as we are.”
In his response, Francis did not equate being transgender to sin, but used the example of a sinner as someone whom most might believe would invoke God’s disapproval, but will not due to God’s unconditional love.
“The Lord always walks with us, always…he is disgusted by none of us. Even if we are sinners, he comes to help us,” he said.
As has become common for Pope Francis throughout his tenure as pontiff, his remarks on cultural issues — which stray significantly to the left of both his predecessors and the majority of clergy within the Catholic Church — express unconditional love for all people, including LGBTQ individuals, without ceding ground when it comes to Church doctrine regarding identity, human sexuality, and the nuclear family.
As noted by Reuters: “The Catholic Church teaches that members of the LGBT community should be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity, and their human rights respected.”
However, Church teaching also rejects the idea of “gender identity” writ large, holding that people are the sex that they were assigned at birth, based on their biological anatomy, and cannot and should not change their sex, even if they undergo surgical interventions. Even Francis has opined that transgender people should not seek to medically transition, but should instead accept their body as a “gift” from God.
Pope Francis has taken a similar stance with regard to same-sex nuptials, believing that “marriage,” as defined by the Church, can only occur within a committed, monogamous relationship between two heterosexual individuals, and publicly opposing same-sex adoption.
At the same time, he has also called on believers not to “judge” gay and lesbian people, and, while serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, previously supported same-sex civil unions and expressed support for same-sex partnerships to be treated equally under the law.
Earlier this year, Francis described laws that criminalize homosexuality and impose harsh jail sentences or torture upon LGBTQ people, like a recently passed law in Uganda, as a “sin.”
Given Francis’s more compassionate and less ideological approach to culture-war issues, some Catholics hope he will help nudge church leaders towards being more accepting or inclusive of LGBTQ people and more amenable to the role of women in the Church during the Vatican’s upcoming Synod of Bishops in October.
During that world summit of bishops, there may be talks about groups that have been heretofore excluded from the Church or are barred from fully participating in the sacraments, including divorcees and those in polygamous relationships, according to Reuters.
His words and actions are under particular close examination as he heads next month to Lisbon, Portugal, for this year’s celebration of World Youth Day, a festival designed to appeal to and spread the gospel among Catholic youth in hopes of engaging with them and growing the membership of the Church.
With church attendance declining and its leaders plagued with scandals, the future of the Catholic Church may depend on its willingness to engage with the modern world and appeal to generations that may hold more progressive views on cultural issues, such as the role of women in the church, the marital status of priests, or the inclusion of LGBTQ believers.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!