Pope Francis Urges Pastoral Care for Trans Persons

Pope Francis is flanked by Vatican Spokesman Greg Burke as he speaks with journalists on board the flight from Baku to Rome, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. (Credit: Luca Zennaro/Pool Photo via AP.)
Pope Francis is flanked by Vatican Spokesman Greg Burke as he speaks with journalists on board the flight from Baku to Rome, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. (Credit: Luca Zennaro/Pool Photo via AP.)

In another wide-raging papal press conference on his way back to Rome after a trip abroad, this time from Georgia and Azerbaijan, Pope Francis on Sunday once again blasted “the indoctrination of gender theory,” answered a question about the “difficult choice” American Catholics face in the upcoming election, and discussed new cardinals and future papal trips.

Gender theory

Francis distinguished the Church’s pastoral accompaniment of homosexual persons, which he encourages, from what he described as the “indoctrination of gender theory.”

“First of all, I’ve accompanied in my life as a priest, a bishop, and even as pope, people with homosexual tendencies or even homosexual practices, I’ve led them closer to the Lord,” the pope said, after a journalist asked him about how to accompany a person who fought for years with his [or her] sexuality, who feels there’s a biological problem, that his [or her] physical body doesn’t correspond with what he or she considers to be their sexual identity.

Some people, Francis said, “can’t” get closer to the Lord, but the pope said he’s never abandoned them, because people must be accompanied “as Jesus accompanies.”

“When a person who has this condition gets in front of Jesus, Jesus won’t say ‘leave because you’re homosexual,” the pope said. (In Italian, the word “condition” means “situation,” without any negative connotation.)

On Saturday in Georgia, Francis described gender theory as a “global war against the family.”

Asked about that remark, Francis shared the experience of talking with a French man, who, like his wife, was Catholic. The man told the pope about asking his 10-year old son what he wanted to be when he grew up, and the child answering “a woman.”

“The dad remembered that in the schoolbooks they taught gender theory. And this is against natural things,” the pope said, before distinguishing between people who have “this tendency, option and even change sex,” from “teaching in school about this, to change mentalities.”

“This is what I call ideological colonization,” Francis said.

The pope also spoke about having received a letter from a Spanish person who was born a girl but, as a child, felt like a man. This person told Francis that he had told his mother he wanted to have his sex reassigned, but the mother asked him to wait until after her death.

Eventually, the person had a sex-reorientation surgery, and went to the local bishop, who, Francis said, could perhaps have been seen as “wasting time to accompany this man.”

“He who was a she, but is a he,” Francis said, referring to the trans person accompanied by the bishop, actually wrote to the pope last year, saying that it’d be a great consolation for him to visit the pope with his wife.

He also spoke about two priests, an older one who was welcoming of the trans person and a younger one who wasn’t, who’d shout to him “You’ll go to hell,” while the 80-year old priest offered to hear the trans person’s confession so he could receive Communion.

“Life is life, things have to be accepted as they come. Sin is sin,” the pope said. “Tendencies, hormonal imbalance, have and cause so many problems… we must be attentive. Not to say that it’s all the same, but in each case, welcome, accompany, study, discern and integrate. This is what Jesus would do today.”

Before moving on to the next question, Francis added: “Please don’t say that the pope will sanctify trans [transgender people], because I read the headlines in the newspapers.”

“I want to be clear, this is a problem of morals. It’s a problem. It’s a human problem that has to be resolved as it can, always with God’s mercy,” he said.

Francis has spoken about gender theory many times before. On Saturday, during a meeting with religious men and women in Georgia, he called it “the great enemy of marriage.”

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Ines San Martin

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