Pope Francis Writes Letter to Gay Catholic Group

The saga of Pope Francis attempting to win over the gays continues, and once again, it’s quiet, underwhelming, and almost certainly a PR stunt.

The Italian Catholic LGBT group Kairos of Florence wrote a letter to the Pope in June, undoubtedly addressing many of the well-known issues that put the Catholic Church at odds with the LGBT community. They reportedly asked for “openness and dialogue” in talking about this rift and stated that a lack of openness “always feeds homophobia.” Hear, hear.

Now, months later, the Pope has written them back, according to enthusiastic reports out of the Catholic news world. Unfortunately, though, it’s hard to tell if this is anything significant (spoiler: it probably isn’t) because Kairos has chosen to keep the contents of both letters private.

Here’s what they did reveal:

The Kairos group said they also received a letter from the Secretariat of State, saying Pope Francis “really enjoyed” their letter and the way it was written. The Pope reportedly assured the group of his blessing, but Kairos decided to keep the rest of both letters private.

The letter was not the first of its kind to be sent to a pope, but one Kairos leaders, Innocent Pontillo, said that on previous occasions “No one had ever even given a nod of response.”

Okay, so the Pope acknowledged that LGBT Catholics do exist. That response is pretty consistent with other actions he’s taken throughout his reign so far, namely this watered-down “love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin” route, but it’s certainly nothing groundbreaking. In case you’ve missed any of the Francis-and-the-gays headlines from the last couple of months, The Advocate‘s got a quick refresher:

Pope Francis continues to make headlines for statements that seem more tolerant and accepting of LGBT people than those of his predecessors, though there has been no change in official Catholic doctrine condemning homosexual acts and opposing marriage equality. In September, Francis said the church shouldn’t “interfere spiritually” with the lives of LGBT people in a wide-ranging interview in which he also said the church cannot focus solely on opposing abortion, contraception, and marriage equality. A month earlier, the pope told a group of reporters that he wouldn’t judge gay priests, asking, “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”

The key phrase here is that there has been no change in official Catholic doctrine. The catechism still refers to LGBT people as mentally disordered, and the Church still won’t budge on marriage. Yes, there is emotional and mental value in affirming statements, especially for LGBT Christians who have been shut out for so long, and especially when they’re coming from the leader of the Church. But good feelings aren’t enough.

Vaguely pro-LGBT statements don’t protect gay Catholic youth who have been kicked out of their homes and are living on the streets, or ensure that same-sex spouses will be allowed to visit one another in Christian hospitals. They don’t protect LGBT kids who are tormented in religious schools while teachers preach against “alternative lifestyles” or help LGBT employees who are fired from their jobs in states where their rights aren’t protected.

For years, Christianity — Catholicism in particular — has played a leading role in the marginalization of LGBT people. That’s not a secret. What the Church doesn’t seem to get is that vague interactions like this one aren’t going to make people forget everything else they’re responsible for, no matter how extensively they’re publicized. Maybe I’m part of the problem by giving this story additional attention, but something tells me the Church won’t be tracking pageviews on articles like this one. Instead, we’ve got to take note of the countless little gestures the Church is making, add ‘em up, and look at the significant results.

Another spoiler: we won’t find any.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

  • Mick

    From day one the Pope’s job has been to get stories about his child raping priests out of the news media and he’s succeeded quite well.

    When it looked like Wojciech Gil was going to be arrested for raping children the Pope got him out of the Dominican Republic quick smart. And now that the authorities are demanding his return, the Pope is pretending he’s not quite sure where the rapist is hiding.

    And what is the media reporting today? The Pope is being nice to homosexuals.

    • Art_Vandelay

      Not to mention that they’re actually harboring Ratzinger himself…blatantly and unapologetically.

      • baal

        Harboring implies that pope benny the rat might have some sort of legal jeopardy hanging around him.

        • Art_Vandelay

          Yeah…I’m not implying a darn thing.

  • sam

    It’s worth noting that these LGBT people can overcome many years of social indoctrination that insist on their inferiority and brokenness and embrace their sexuality, and yet they are unable to undo as many years of indoctrination that insist that Catholicism is a legitimate worldview. It’s a testimony to the power of childhood conditioning. How sad.

    • Sajanas

      Well, I’d also say that you could have a very different the experience if you have a more LGBT friendly priest. I’ve heard a fair number of stories where people came to priests upset that their son or daughter was gay, and the priest was like “well, I’m gay, and there isn’t anything wrong with that.” I think at the local level, you see a lot more inclusiveness, but it certainly doesn’t work its way up to the higher levels.

    • M.S.

      I agree with Sajanas… if someone is able to reconcile their sexual orientation with their religion, then isn’t that their prerogative? That doesn’t necessarily mean they are held in religion against their will or due to conditioning, it could be a rational, well-thought out choice they made to embrace both.

      • sam

        If someone is able to reconcile their sexual orientation with their religion, that very much is their prerogative. If someone is able to reconcile their Scientology with their use of psychiatric drugs, that is their prerogative. One might make a rational, well-thought out decision to embrace both Scientology and an opinion that they hold an accurate representation of reality. Scientology and reality aren’t necessarily compatible.

  • Rationalist1

    Words are cheap, it’s actions that matter.

    It would be wonderful to see the Pope tell a Catholic school that it can’t expel a student because his or her parents are gay. It would be wonderful to have the pope say Catholic schools must accept gay students even though they may not agree with them and support their right to be gay and free from societal discrimination. It would be wonderful to have a person in a Catholic institution be able to express a sincere position that is opposition from official Catholic teaching and not risk dismissal.

    Until I see some concrete actions that differ from the past actions, I’ll reserve judgement.

  • baal

    Let’s see how much catholic wealth is spent on the next Prop8 equivalent and on which side. It’d be a big step forward if they just stopped their anti-LGBT spending.

    • islandbrewer

      “But the new and improved RCC under Pope Francis loves all of you abominations who are going to hell! Let’s be friends, horrible sinners!”

  • Baby_Raptor

    Cool. Can we stop waxing over him until he actually *does* something?

    Every time a post like this goes up, he wins, because all he’s looking for is good PR.

    • Kellen Connor

      I think he is doing something… and that something involves eyes and wool. I liken posts like this to the statement “The Emperor is naked.” My only complaint is that posts like these don’t get exposed to the right people: the people Francis is fooling.

  • Kellen Connor

    It’s crap like this that make my parents feel all warm and fuzzy about telling me that they’ll always love me, but I shouldn’t expect my future wife to be a part of their family. Even that “who am I to judge?” B.S. It’s really just a giant cop-out. “Who am I to judge?” = “Why should I think about this very hard?” And it’s not that I think Francis hasn’t thought about it; it’s that I think he’s giving permission to his followers not to think about it. And when you remember that real, clear thought is the #1 enemy of Organized Religion, it makes perfect sense. Francis is a walking P.R. stunt; a living, breathing opiate of the masses.

    • Miss_Beara

      “Who am I to judge – but God is and he says you are going to hell!” is the rest of that sentence. It is just as bad as “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

    • CottonBlimp

      Not to mention, the clear inference of “who am I to judge” is that you’ve done something wrong.

      • Kellen Connor

        Indeed. It can mean a lot of things, but it’s usually a passive-aggressive way of saying “I hope you feel awful about yourself, but I’m going to pretend I don’t so I’ll look like the better person.”

        But I think that what Francis is going for is a pat little catch-phrase that gives his adherents a get-out-of-argument-free card. “Who am I to judge?” here means “It’s between you and God, and I wash my hands of it.” Which gives them tacit permission to close their minds to the long, long, looooong list of reasons that the Catholic view of homosexuality (among other things) is complete crap. It’s a way to make them feel good about themselves for running away before they learn anything. Or at least, that’s what I get from this.

        • CottonBlimp

          I don’t think you’re wrong. I didn’t see that side of it before.

  • ShoeUnited

    Am I the only one finding it a bit hypocritical that this group is keeping both letters private when the statement says they want to keep an open dialog so that LGBT people aren’t marginalized?

    What was the pope’s letter just a envelope full of Euros with a note saying “Say something positive but noncommittal.”?

  • New Ways Ministry

    Camille – While the Catholic hierarchy has maligned the LGBT community, Pope Francis’ new tone adds up to something more than you suggest. No doctrinal changes have been made, you are correct. Yet, for millions of gay and trans Catholics the new spirit of welcome has had a deep and meaningful impact.

    For more of what I mean (and an LGBT-positive Catholic approach), check out our ministry’s blog, Bondings 2.0. Of particular interest to you might be these articles: http://newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/pope-francis-letter-writing-revolution-requires-our-involvement/ and http://newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/on-spirit-day-catholics-chart-new-course-for-lgbt-youth/

    • baal

      Better but still not good.

    • eRmAgerD111

      You don’t shove a knife 6 inches into someone’s back, pull it out 3, and call that “progress”.

    • PrimateZero

      Stockholm syndrome is such an awful thing.
      I sorry LGBT Catholics but this more open kinder face of the RCC is just for good PR. After all the negative press about child abuse, the church is just a dying institution that is trying to stay relevant in the 21st century.

    • God’s Starship

      All that’s changed is you’ve renewed your commitment to feeling good about yourself as you do nothing to improve the lives of the gay and trans catholics you pay meaningless lip service too.

    • CottonBlimp

      This paltry “spirit of welcome” wouldn’t have had any impact if children weren’t manipulated from birth into this obviously abusive relationship with the Church.

      I’m sorry, but nobody should be impressed that the church says “I love you” between acts of violence. Most abusive boyfriends can manage that.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    I can’t lie. This Pope really irritates me. While Benedict was easy to loathe because he didn’t hide what he was all about, Francis seems convinced that pretty words and token gestures will make up for decades or centuries of abuse, hatred, violence, and murder. It was so easy to explain why I didn’t like Benedict. But now when I criticise Francis, people look at me like I just kicked a baby.

    • God’s Starship

      Just remind them he hasn’t actually done much yet besides selling off some furniture.

    • AverageRandomJoe

      What exactly would make up for centuries of abuse? Wouldn’t anything short of suicide be seen as token to you?

      • Anna

        How about changing the actual doctrine? I don’t care about nice words. Hiding prejudice behind a wave and a smile is worse than the alternative. Give me Benedict over Francis any day.

        • AverageRandomJoe

          So you want them to align with what you believe is right? Sounds like tolerance to me.

          • Anna

            Of course I tolerate the Catholic church. Since when does lack of agreement mean I’m not tolerating them? I don’t respect their positions, though. I don’t expect Francis to change doctrine, but I sure as heck won’t praise him for a bunch of nice words that change nothing. You want me to give him a cookie for being nice?

            • AverageRandomJoe

              Maybe you missed the point. The complaint was the pope was being nice and that irritated the poster because it was like kicking a kid and they said nice words won’t make up for centuries of abuse. I asked what would, implying nothing would anyway. And then you say change their doctrine. The irony about that is religion and spirituality are things that are internal thing about doing what people feel to be right. Just like sexuality. Asking someone to change their faith or the tenets of their faith is like asking someone to change their sexuality. That is intolerant. I was always taught that saying to a gay man something like, “Stop the way you feel about men,” was intolerant. Maybe it’s just semantics.

              • Anna

                You asked what would make up for centuries of abuse. I responded that changing the doctrine would. I don’t see where I missed any point. The OP prefers Benedict (as do I) because he didn’t hide what he was really about. Pretty words mean nothing. Nice words mean nothing, particularly since they are only misleading people. Francis does not intend to change anything about the doctrine. I am not demanding that he do so. I am simply stating that this is why I do not respect his actions and will not praise him for saying words that change absolutely nothing.

      • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

        Leaving us the hell alone.

        • AverageRandomJoe

          Did you mean for the humor in that?

          So you would rather he ignore you? Is that what you are demanding?

          • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

            I want the Catholic Church to stop killing my people and raping our children and demanding that we live our lives in accordance with their twisted morality. Is that so hard to ask?

            • AverageRandomJoe

              The Catholic Church is doing this? When? Where?

              • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

                Well, considering my screen name is the Irish Atheist, I was obviously referring to Turkmenistan.

                • AverageRandomJoe

                  Wow, snarky. Is that all you have for the world? Hate and snark? You seemed to be wanting to make a point but I was missing it.

                • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

                  If you’ve never heard of the Troubles or the Catholic Church pedophilia scandal, then the problem doesn’t lie with me. It means you’ve closed your eyes to the crimes of the Church.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Oh, and don’t forget the Magdalene laundries!

                • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

                  After speaking firsthand with some of the survivors, I don’t think I ever could.

                • AverageRandomJoe

                  Man, calm down. You were making a vague point and I was asking you to specify what you meant by it. Powerful people have often done the same thing to boys. They always try to hide it. And that doesn’t mean that a new person in charge isn’t trying to reach out and stop it. That would be like hating all US citizens and Obama for the raping and killing of women and children in Vietnam which was also covered up. War between groups isn’t uncommon either and while religion is a cause, it is also just as often not a cause. It is just violence, people not able to see people as people. Hate needs to just dissipate before the killing. It would be like a Jew from Germany hating Merkel. Irrational.

                • CottonBlimp

                  Merkel isn’t the leader of the Nazi party.

                  This isn’t retained anger over the Crusades. This is objection to what the Catholic church, under the authority of Pope Francis, is doing RIGHT NOW.

                • AverageRandomJoe

                  You are missing the point I think. The Troubles was a while ago and is not right now. And the child molestation happened in the past but I am unaware of anything current. I am asking specifically what is happening right now, I keep getting old incidents.

                • Carmelita Spats

                  Have you seen what is going on in my country, Mexico, in this year of our fatuous Lard, 2013? In the Third World? Priests are still fucking children and getting away with it…The Roman Criminal Church should never be compared to the IRS, the U.S. military, etc. These are corrupt institutions that are worth reforming because they serve a meaningful purpose. The RCC is an organized crime syndicate and it is not worth reforming. Unlike the military or the IRS, the RCC claims divine authority, peddles itself as a MORAL AUTHORITY with all the weight of Matthew 18:18 which is often inscribed in the cupolas of mega-cathedrals. The RCC should be compared to NAMBLA, sex trafficking conglomerates, and pedophile rings.

                  If you want the latest on “genital-free” maladjusted virgins in the U.S., one of the best sources is Patrick J. Wall’s blog. Patrick is an ex-priest, a canon lawyer, and one of the good guys. He CONTINUES to highlight current clergy abuse, current crimes, and his main thrust is holding the bishops criminally liable. Patrick states throughout his blog that even in 2013, “the Roman Catholic Church has not learned and in fact may not have the capacity to learn how to protect children in their care.” He also states, “A bishop’s ability to oversee or supervise the clergy is reaching a new low. The criminal conduct by priests in 2013 has not abated. Rather, priest arrests are increasing. See the most recent arrests of
                  Fathers Koppala, Guarin-Sosa, Medina-Cruz and Wehmeyer. Worse yet, even though the Dallas 2002 Charter prohibited Episcokopos from having criminally convicted priests in ministry, Archbishops have
                  chosen to continue placing such priests like Father Michael Fugee in control over children.”

                  Patrick J. Wall:

                  Bishops Accountability:

                  Runaway Priests:

                  Carmen Aristegui:

                  Matt Dillahunty: The only time I’ve heard him say “fuck you” to a caller was when a crazed Catholic claimed that the RCC was just as corrupt as other institutions but worth reforming…This is hilarious…


                • AverageRandomJoe

                  I see what is happening in my country, the US as well. How many pedophiles have there been caught here alone? There are also stories here of coverups where teachers are just moved to a different school or district. That does not mean that the ultimate leader, now Obama, is to blame or that he is insincere when he try’s to reach out to those impacted. The US is terrible at protecting its children. But for some reason I doubt few here have the same ire towards the Leader of the Free world.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Francis reminds me of Dolores Umbridge.

  • Anna

    Thanks for this. I’m getting really tired of the way the mainstream media is fawning all over this new Pope. Even bastions of liberalism like Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert have fallen prey. I find it very depressing the way Colbert’s audience cheers whenever this subject comes up, as if Francis has actually changed anything about Catholic doctrine.

  • Geena Safire

    catechism still refers to LGBT people as mentally disordered

    Actually the catechism has been changed. ‘Experiencing same-sex attraction’, since the church acknowledges the scientific finding that this is something one is born with, is not considered sinful. But gay/lesbian sex, like all sex outside of a man-woman married couple without contraception, is considered intrinsically disordered. (‘Disordered’ in the sense of not in the proper order for God’s will for human sexuality.)

    It’s all crazy talk, IMHO. But it works in our favor if we correctly refer to their teaching when opposing it.

  • Matt D

    When any church extends a hand towards me, I never miss that it’s covered in blood and smells like death. I guess when you’re telling people death is an adventure, the atrocities of the past look less horrific.

  • jim

    Maybe I’m being a bit too obvious here but it strikes me that if gay people want to be practising Catholics there’s absolutely nothing to stop them. That the Church has its own beliefs and rules is something you either accept or dismiss. Nobody is having their arms twisted to believe in the Church’s teachings and everyone is entitled to make up their own minds. Of course the Church believes it’s right. What would be the point of it otherwise? As for the scandals that have emerged in recent years – the Church, like every institution in history is made up of flawed human beings, some of whom will do truly terrible things and many who will do truly wonderful things. If anyone ever finds a religion made up of perfect people, they should join it right away. Unfortunately, it won’t be perfect any more because we’re all flawed to some extent.
    I feel genuinely sorry for many of the posters on here who seem to be eaten away with hatred of the Church. Let it go and live your life according to your conscience and beliefs and allow others to do the same.