While speaking to the Associated Press from the Vatican hotel (where he resides), he told reporter Nicole Winfield that we’re all “children of God” and that God loves us “as we are.” But …
Francis still thinks being gay is a “sin.” He distinguishes a “sin” from being a “crime,” which, hey, is something. But he still doesn’t believe the church can bless same-sex marriages because we queer folks are still sinners, apparently.
We’re not supposed to judge or discriminate against others, right? As Francis puts it: "It's also a sin to lack charity with one another, so what about that?" I feel like this is Pope talk for mind your business, which again if it saves people’s lives and gives them protection from discrimination and abuse from their government, I appreciate the sentiment!
In acknowledging that bishops in some places do feel differently, he said they need to have a “process of conversion” and should apply “tenderness” in the same way God offers tenderness to “each one of us.”
These sentiments aren't entirely surprising—Francis recently encouraged parents to accept their children if they’re queer instead of condemning them. Which again, could save lives! Given how many queer (and especially how many trans) youth become homeless, drop out of school, or live with mental health struggles, including anxiety and depression, acceptance is lifesaving. No crumb is too measly to be eaten.
Especially given the conservative effort to push anti-queer and specifically anti-trans bills at both the state and federal levels, LGBTQ+ folks need all the support we can get. Between sports bills, bathroom bills, efforts to criminalize safe and age-appropriate health care, and the increasingly infamous Don’t Say Gay bills and book bans, queer folks are very much under attack right here in the United States, and it’s all too tempting to try and act though it’s just other governments or politicians who use religion as a shield. It’s very much happening right here, and many of our elected officials and voters need the reminder that sin is not a crime.
But is what Francis said enough? For me, as an openly gay atheist, I want more. But the longer I sit with this story, the more I think about my childhood.
I was raised mostly by my grandmother, who was already in her senior years when I was young. She was very, very religious—prayers every night, portraits of Jesus in every room, etc. As a nosy little kid, I eavesdropped on her prayers (I know, I know) and my heart still hurts when I recall her saying special prayers for her late brother, who was openly gay and passed during the AIDS crisis. I know from family lore my grandmother visited her little brother in the hospital as he was passing, in spite of warnings that she could “catch” the virus just by being there. As far as I heard, she was praying for his acceptance into heaven every single night for the rest of her life.
We quite literally never discussed him or her loss—she got too emotional every time she opened a photo album to his picture—but I think of what relief she might have felt to hear Francis speak today and see the slow but steady evolution of the church. It’s not perfect, and it’s not enough, but it’s not nothing.
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