Today, on the fourth anniversary of Pope Francis’ leadership of the Catholic Church, it’s appropriate to reflect on his stance on LGBTQ people relating to inclusion, family, gender identity and marriage.
From his early “Who am I to judge?” comment when asked about gay priests in the Catholic Church, to his vocal opposition to marriage equality, Pope Francis has given LGBTQ Catholics both cause for hope, and reasons to be disappointed. And although he has breathed new life into the advances of Vatican II, opposition to his initiatives — including efforts to modernize the Church — has been fierce, particularly among members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In a review of Pope Francis’ achievements, the National Catholic Reporter notes that he followed two very strong Popes bent on elevating orthodoxy over orthopraxis. After the 27 years under Pope John Paul II and seven years under Pope Benedict, Pope Francis finds himself trying to undo more than three decades of Catholic conservative appointments. Unfortunately, many U.S. bishops have rejected his pastoral approach, instead engaging in judging without impunity rather than following the Pope’s instructions in 2013:
Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 16, 2013
As we begin this fifth year of the Papacy, I remain cautiously hopeful that our brothers in the hierarchy of the Church will indeed turn to love and openness, and that Pope Francis continues his journey toward acceptance. It’s this willingness to step outside his comfort zone, as he did when he met with Diego Neria Lejarraga, a transgender man from Spain, that gives me hope. Pope Francis not only met Lejarraga but also with Yayo Grassi, a U-S-Based Argentine Caterer, and former pupil of the Pope, and his male partner of 19 years.
While these meetings were significant, we must understand that Pope Francis alone cannot make change. It’s up to us, the loving, embracing, ever changing faithful in the pews who are called to hold our hierarchy responsible for making the Catholic Church all it can be for as many of us as it can — which means welcoming of all the faithful.
To learn more about HRC’s Catholic initiatives, visit hrc.org/Catholic. HRC Foundation’s guide “Coming Home: To Catholicism and to Self” is aimed at LGBTQ American Catholics who hope to lead their faith communities toward a more welcoming stance, and those seeking a path back to their beloved tradition.