There's no doubt that Pope Francis has overall been more progressive in his views on LGBTQ issues than previous pontiffs. However, his actual track record is fairly confusing.

Where does Pope Francis stand when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights? If you find this question a bit difficult to answer, know that you're not alone.

In fact, it's like that the more closely you've followed his comments since his arrival at the Vatican, the more confused you've ended up.

That's because the pope has issued so many statements and comments over the years that either contradict, conflict, or generally muddy the waters that even experts couldn't tell you exactly where he stands on issues like trans rights, same-sex marriage, and the Catholic Church's relationship with the LGBTQ community. 

"Support Your Gay Kids"

The debate over what Pope Francis really thinks was reignited recently when he made some unscripted comments during his weekly audience. The pope offered an important message to parents of gay children: show your support and do not condemn them for who they are.

Pundits seized on the comments as fresh evidence that the Catholic Church is moving in a more progressive and LGBTQ-friendly direction. But is it? 

What Have You Said For Me Lately?

There's no doubt that Pope Francis has overall been more progressive in his views on LGBTQ issues than previous pontiffs, and Francis is frequently the subject of criticism from the more conservative factions of the Church for his supposed softening on traditional hard-line stances.

However, his actual track record is fairly confusing, so let's dive a bit deeper. Here's a chronological breakdown of the pope’s most notable comments regarding LGBTQ rights:

July 2013 – Francis famously responds, “who am I to judge?” when asked about the presence of gay priests.

June 2014 – Francis says heterosexual marriages are necessary for children to be “raised properly.”

January 2015 – The pope meets with a transgender man at the Vatican who was rejected by his local parish in Spain.

September 2015 – Pope Francis reportedly told an NYC priest “tell the gays to pray for me and I’ll pray for them.”

June 2016 – Francis states that “the church must say it is sorry” to gay people that it has offended.  

December 2016 – Francis approves a document banning gay men from seminaries and ordination.

May 2018 – The pope reportedly tells a gay survivor of clergy sexual abuse that “it does not matter that you are gay” and that “God made you like this and loves you like this and I don’t care.”

September 2020 – While meeting with Italian parents of LGBTQ children, Francis told them “The Church loves your children as they are.”

September 2021 – Francis expresses support for same-sex couples to form civil unions for financial reasons, but says gay marriage is off the table.

September 2021 – Francis criticizes “gender ideology” that seeks to erase the male/female binary.

What Next, Father?

You can see why even experts are struggling to find a pattern here. What will the next statement be? In favor of expanding rights, or of respecting tradition and historic Catholic teachings?

Or perhaps some are asking: why should we care? 

Here's the thing, even if you aren't Catholic yourself, the stances that Pope Francis takes nonetheless help shape the world around you. Although membership in the Catholic Church has dipped in the West recently, the Church still brings in tens of millions of new members across South America, Africa, and Asia each year. 

When the words of single man can change how an entire class of people is treated – both in and outside of the Church – those words matter a lot!

What are your thoughts? Do the pope's unpredictable and vague stances leave room for love, or for abuse?

18 comments

  1. Michael Hall's Avatar Michael Hall

    I would sincerely answer the question with the counterpoint, who cares what the Pope or the Catholic Church think? The Pope is no more qualified to issue opinions on that than I am. It's just that his opinion carries more weight within the Church. Nobody outside the Catholic church is in any way required to follow such guidance. I like that the Pope seems to be tolerance of difference, but that's not going to help the more dogmatic members of the church figure out how they treat people.

  1. gerrydiamond's Avatar gerrydiamond

    One thing omitted from the list is that Pope Francis has banned parish priests from blessing gay marriages and civil partnerships recently as gay people do not live their lives according to the Gospel. That was a courtesy that was at the discretion of the individual priest. On balance the Catholic Church is negative towards LGBT+ rights and I recently stopped attending mass regularly due to this action as I thought there was a measure of tolerance, as a life long gay catholic mass attender I have chosen to be a 'person of faith or spirit', that is a non-aligned non-denominational Christian that will continue to follow the gospel but without the condemnation of the various religions. Pope Francis double-speak keeps neither the LGBTQ+ community nor orthodox Catholics happy, as I am convinced that the Catholic church is no more than a global business which cares nothing for gay catholic children or ordinary people that struggle with the challenges of living in a modern society and how people should respond compassionately to these issues in the spirit of the Christian gospel. A recent article by an Anglican Archbishop on sex and sexuality, highlighted that the only reference to making judgement on these matters by Christ personally was when the women who was accused of adultery and they were about to stone her, and Jesus responds 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone', the crowd disperses and then Jesus says to her to go, as neither the crowd nor He condemns her. So I follow what Christ says and not the Pope regardless of his claims to be the vicar of Christ as it is clearly nonsense.

    1. David E. Leckrone's Avatar David E. Leckrone

      After 70+ years in church, 50 in music leadership, I have left to Christian "Church."

      Comparing the Message of Jesus to the doctrines and history of the "Church" leads one to conclude they are more than problematic but, bluntly, mutually exclusive.

      Interesting experience is when presented with this observation most churchgoers cannot dispute it. Sadly 9 of 10 cannot even discuss it! So much for the Biblical standards of defending your faith.

      David Leckrone Appomattox, VA

  1. Keith Allen Steele Eash's Avatar Keith Allen Steele Eash

    The pope is neither a leader or theologically sound like most past popes.

    1. Robert James Ruhnke's Avatar Robert James Ruhnke

      Why? Because he’s not hurling fire and brimstone sentiments at people?

      1. Keith Allen Steele Eash's Avatar Keith Allen Steele Eash

        No. He confuses the faithful. Says one thing. Does the opposite. He is leading the Church into apostasy. If you knew anything about doctrine in the Catholic Church you'd know your statement was stupid.

  1. Gary Richard Noce's Avatar Gary Richard Noce

    He is not enough. Any organization that separates family is no good.

  1. Pedro Pagan Jr's Avatar Pedro Pagan Jr

    1 Peter 2:17 To LOVE the Brothers that are believers, respect OTHERS and Honor those in Authority. Parents must provide for their family 1 Timothy 5:8 that's shelter, food, clothing, learning also support. We are not to judge people at all, just let them find their way. To LOVE, RESPECT, HONOR is our calling.

    1. flugo's Avatar flugo

      'pagan':

      1. You say 'we are not to judge people at all'. Jesus said in Luke 17:13 to 'rebuke'; in John 7:24 to 'rightly judge'; and Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14,15 allowed judging.

      2. You say our calling is ''to love, respect, honor'. Jesus gave us our calling in Matthew 28:16-20. . . . the Great Commission.

      3. You say people are to be left to find their way. Numerous places in God's Word, Jesus warns people of future judgement; He warns people to 'Repent!'; He urges people to turn from their wicked ways.

      People left to their 'own way' will never find God, peace, salvation . . . . NEVER! For Jesus said 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by Me.'

      To avoid embarrassing yourself again with your inane blather, you'd do well to do your homework!

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        Flugo, most of us aren't christians, and don't care what the Bible says about anything. Can't you see that you're wasting your breath?

      2. David E. Leckrone's Avatar David E. Leckrone

        How Christ-like.

        That is sarcasism of course. YOU need to do you "Jesus 101' level homework.

  1. Rev. Dr. G. Waldron's Avatar Rev. Dr. G. Waldron

    I am not Catholic, but I have the deepest respect for Holy Father Francis. There were terrible Popes in the past, but the Catholic Church and the Orthodox kept Christianity alive for centuries, regardless of many of the unholy at the top. Francis is not infallible, but he is genuine and humble. It would be good if we would have a little humility ourselves.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Don't get me wrong, Waldron. I like that old girl, too.

  1. Frank Peter Guarino's Avatar Frank Peter Guarino

    Religion and LGBT issues have been in constant fight for centuries now. I appreciate the fact that I got my Doctorate from ULC in Spirituality rather than any other subject because organized religion has too many rules, while spirits are obvious across the entire spectrum. My mom is one of those Christians that says that I am an abomination because I'm gay and that she's always crying for me, while I remind her that she was supposed to be stoned to death because she had been cheating on her husband. She then tells me that her and her new husband have already been forgiven because they were forgiven by the congregation. Another memo I obviously missed since The Bible specifically states that only through the blood of Jesus shall you be forgiven of your sins. Another example is how my childhood best-friend disavowed me when I came out of the closet and recalled his invitation to me to his wedding, even though him and his soon to be wife were both studying clergymen...so much for no sex out of wedlock.

    Catholicism and Mormonism are two of the harshest yet accepted religions world-wide, yet just like the Holy Bible itself there are repeated contradictions. Anybody notice how repeatedly the worshipers of the Holy Bible say we are to love, respect and forgive unconditionally? To them I say read Genesis 3 and see how God banned Adam and Eve from the Garden because they ate of an apple. Also read Revelations Chapter 2, where you will see that if you've tried everything you can and tolerated as much as you can without caving in to the true spirit then you will be given the right to eat from the tree of life. Now nowhere does it say to go out and do evil things (ie- rape, pillage, kill, etc.) so that you may be able to enter the Kingdom of God, I'm just wanting to point that out as well. Yet the hypocrisy of not only the Holy Bible but the organized religions have rung for centuries. There's a reason why many songs say that they Holy Bible is to be a lamp onto your feet and a lamp onto your path, NO WHERE have I legitimately heard that every word in the Bible should be taken verbatim. Some Mormons it's ok to drink Coke, others it's not. Some Priests are pedophiles, while others are not. Stay true to the Spirit.

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    I imagine that this is a refreshingly enl8ghtened Pope, who says, as he has thus far, in effect, that as long as you have a functioning anus then you are aces by me.

  1. flugo's Avatar flugo

    Where doe he stand?
    Depends upon to whom he's talkikng; depends on the 'flavor of the month;, depends upon what he thinks the pople want to hear.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I get the impression that the Pope might not be totally straight. I've even heard that he wears women's underwear, under his dress.

  1. flugo's Avatar flugo

    He stands 'on the fence', as he does so often!

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