One of the most frequently discussed topics about the LGBTQ+ community is its tumultuous relationship with the Church. Explicitly, how far the Church has come along in accepting the community.
The Catholic Church has declared that as a person does not choose to be either homosexual or heterosexual, being gay is inherently not a sin. Historically, the Church has resisted the outright acceptance of homosexuality within the Christian community. But times have changed, as have the Popes in charge, and the Church does provide pastoral care for the LGBTQ+ community through official and unofficial channels. The Church is active politically on LGBTQ+ rights issues globally.
But it hasn’t been smooth sailing, especially during the AIDS crisis which alienated gay men from the very communities they grew up in.
Two-thirds of LGBTQ+ Catholics say the Church is unfriendly towards them, and only 6% feel they can approach clergymen when it comes to questions about their sexuality. About 50% of the adult population are conflicted between their identity and their religious beliefs. However, all is not lost. The world may appear to be a ”big bad place,” but there is light at the end of this dark tunnel of bleak statistics.
The 266th and current Pope, Pope Francis, elected in 2013, has been a strong advocate (and dare I say, ally?) for the LGBTQ+ community for years. His adoption of a more appeasing tone towards the society as compared to his predecessors has given lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Christians a ray of hope to cling to. His popularity amongst millennial Christians rests heavily on his earnest empathy towards the LGBTQ+ community, amongst other more modern, humane ideas he’s proposed (his progressive views on divorce, child sexual abuse and climate change sparked controversy and support alike).
Let’s start at the very beginning of his papacy, the pilot episode of season 266.
In 2013, the Pope was asked about gay priests during an unprompted exchange with the press. He responded with, ”If they (gay priests) accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?” This was a turning point in Pope Francis’s papacy for the LGBTQ+ community.
In 2015 he included 90 prison inmates in his luncheon. This very act of ”breaking bread” with gay, trans, and HIV+ prisoners was iconic, highlighting his complicated but positive approach towards LGBTQ+ issues. Earlier that year, he made another controversial statement in Andrea Torinelli and Giacomo Galeazzi’s new book, ‘Pope Francis: The Economy Kills’. The Pope condemns the ”gender theory” and even goes as far as comparing it to nuclear war and genetic manipulation.
Pope Francis met with gay priests around the world to personally affirm their sacerdotal duties. The Pope encourages members of the faith to, ”walk with deep interior freedom, following the Spirit of Jesus. And I give you the power of the keys.”
One of his most memorable public appearances was when he uttered the words, ”The key is for the church to welcome, not exclude and show mercy, not condemnation.” These remarks have encouraged the LGBTQ+ community and reminded everyone that there is still hope for progress, however slow, to be made. This reconciliatory tone of Pope Francis has resulted in the American LGBT magazine The Advocate naming Pope Francis their Person of the Year for 2013.
Although the LGBTQ+ community has advocates on their side, such as The Pope amongst various other open-minded priests and clergymen, there is still a population that is very vocal about shunning lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people from the Church.
But fret not dear reader, for these troubled times are nothing but a testament to the resilience and bravery of the LGBTQ+ community. When the worst of the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that currently festers within the Church dies out and every Christian of every gender and orientation is accepted, the Church and LGBTQ+ community will wonder
Why did it even take so long?
Written by Andrea Gonsalves for MTTN
Edited by Mihika Antonia Dean for MTTN
Featured image and artwork by Instagram- @lifeisam.art.ini