May 21, 2018. Boston, MA. According to reports from Spain's El Pais newspaper and the Associated Press, Pope Francis has reportedly told a gay male survivor of clerical sexual abuse that his sexual orientation comes from God. Juan Carlos Cruz said that in a private meeting about the Chilean sexual abuse scandal, Pope Francis said, "Look Juan Carlos, the pope loves you this way. God made you like this and he loves you."
At this point, the Vatican is declining to confirm or deny the remarks.
If this is indeed what the Pope said, the door for significant changes in Catholic teaching on homosexuality and gender identity may have been opened, according to leaders of DignityUSA, the organization of Catholics working for justice, equality and full inclusion of LGBTQI people in the church and society.
"The Pope saying that God created an individual as gay goes far beyond a statement of welcome," said Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA's Executive Director. "It sets a new foundation for Catholic teaching about sexual orientation that is very different than what has been traditionally stated. If God creates us with our sexual orientation or gender identity as part of who we are, the doctrine that LGBTQI people are not part of God's plan for humanity cannot stand. We can no longer be considered 'objectively disordered,' and the entire theology of human identity and relationships will need to be reconsidered."
Duddy-Burke said, "Current Catholic teaching is dehumanizing and degrading. As LGBTQI people, many of us find it impossible to believe that it represents the teaching of Jesus. And as we have seen over and over, church leaders and ordinary Catholics also struggle with its implications once they take the time to get to know LGBTQI people, and listen to our stories. The Pope's encounter with Juan Carlos Cruz appears to be another instance in which the experience of meeting one-on-one in an atmosphere of open-hearted listening and respect was transformative."
Duddy-Burke said that DignityUSA has repeatedly called on Vatican officials and other Church leaders to meet with and listen to LGBTQI people and families. "I've had numerous experiences of meeting with bishops, archbishops, and cardinals, some of whom have made public statements that have harmed our community. After each conversation, we have parted with respect and greater understanding. Some of these leaders have said that the opportunity to talk together about our faith has led them to question the 'objectively disordered' label placed on gay people," she said. "It is essential that we keep having these conversations. What church leaders believe has real impact on people's lives. It impacts how welcome we feel in our church, whether our jobs and health care are secure, whether we are able to become parents, even whether people can use religion to justify violence against us."
Duddy-Burke said that DignityUSA calls on the Vatican to confirm the reported remarks, and then to engage in official dialogue with members of the LGBTQI community and family members. "It is long past time for the church's harmful, even dangerous teachings, to be dismantled. The lives and human rights of people all around the world are at stake."
DignityUSA is approaching 50 years of spiritual support and advocacy for LGBTQI Catholics and their families. It is a founding member of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.