Pope Francis made news yesterday by offering a message of acceptance to a gay man. While the Catholic Church has been known to support a stance counter to homosexuality, Pope Francis’ words may indicate a softened approach to the subject.
Known as a progressive Pope, this isn’t the first time he has pushed the Catholic envelope; but his newest remarks are making many cheer, and some question his commitment to the Catholic doctrine.
When Juan Carlos Cruz, a survivor of sexual abuse by a Chilean priest, spent time with Pope Francis in April, he had an enlightening conversation with the man in white. When Cruz brought up his sexuality and identity as a gay man, the Pope had a surprising response.
According to Cruz, Pope Francis responded, “You know, Juan Carlos, that does not matter. God made you like this. God loves you like this. The Pope loves you like this and you should love yourself and not worry about what people say.”
This is a far cry from the threats of Hell once embedded into the Catholic stance on homosexuality, and if accurate, brings a promise of hope for those struggling to reconcile their sexuality with their faith.
The statement reminded me of the summer I spent working in a church office. One of my tasks was to photocopy a series of letters from a distraught man who had been harassing the church. While I didn’t condone his approach, reading his words gave me some insight and understanding into his behaviour.
It was clear from the scattered thoughts in the letters that he was gay, and trying desperately not to be. He had sought help from the church, knowing they would be kind and loving with him, and that they viewed homosexuality as categorically wrong. They did, indeed, help him try to resist his sexuality. It didn’t work, because of course sexuality is ingrained and not a choice. This caused him a great deal of internal conflict.
His words have stuck with me over 13 years later – “I can’t help but feel God made me this way and loves me for who I am.”
I hope wherever he is now, he heard the Pope echo his thoughts. I hope he has made peace with himself. I hope that Pope Francis stands by his comments and that they breathe sighs of relief into gay Catholics, and LGBTQ youth who are struggling.
Pope Francis has strayed from the strict teachings of the Catholic Church in order to comfort a follower before. He recently reassured a bereaved young boy that though his father was a non-believer when he passed away, he would still go to Heaven. It’s clear that this Pope exemplifies God’s love, not His wrath.
Thank-you, Pope Francis, for preaching love and acceptance over hate and intolerance.
And thank-you, Juan Carlos Cruz, for so bravely speaking out.
Photo credit: catholicnewsagency.com