Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Many rejoiced over Pope Francis reportedly telling a gay man, “God made you like this and he loves you.” Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of sexual abuse by priests in Chile, shared with the press the conversation he had with the pope. Although his story wasn’t officially confirmed by the Vatican — as their policy is to refrain from commenting on the pope’s personal conversations — Cruz said the pope apologized for the abuse. He shared with Francis that he was told he “probably liked the abuse” because he was gay, and the pope was rightfully upset and disturbed by the whole tragedy.
Francis has indeed proven to be more progressive than his predecessors. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI signed a document prohibiting people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” from becoming priests, whereas Francis has declared gay clergymen should be forgiven.
But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking the Catholic Church has suddenly opened its arms to embrace the LGBT community. Yes, it’s wonderful the pope showed compassion for Cruz by comforting him in his vulnerability. However, the pope’s comments were right in line with the official teachings of the church and not as groundbreaking as some may believe.
An earlier version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which summarizes Catholic teachings, did say that gay people “do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial.” Yet in 1997, an updated Catechism excluded that portion, instead saying homosexual inclinations are “objectively disordered.”
Francis’ alleged comments to Cruz, no matter how kind, were not revolutionary. There still isn’t complete acceptance of gay individuals by the church. Full and complete inclusion means the church would teach that homosexual acts aren’t sinful.
Frankly, the church’s stance on welcoming gay individuals is somewhat contradictory. On one hand, Francis famously said in 2013, “Who am I to judge?” on the topic of welcoming gay individuals to the church. But on the other hand, the pope has reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s position that, in the words of the BBC, “homosexual acts were sinful, but homosexual orientation was not.” So, in a nutshell, the church believes that it’s okay for you to be gay — just don’t act on it.
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The church seems to be struggling with what side of the issue it’s on. The official teachings are a strange middle ground between complete condemnation and absolute acceptance of homosexuality. If Cruz’s account of his time with the pope is accurate, then it appears the pope is sympathetic to the pain and trials of gay individuals.
The church appears to be moving toward being more accepting of all worshippers, but there is clearly still more work to be done. The more positive, accepting rhetoric the public hears from religious leaders, the more inclusive the global community will become.
Asha Kodan is a rising junior biology major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.