Pope Francis Doesn’t Approve of Gay Marriage or Adoption, But Says “We Shouldn’t Marginalize People For This”

Pope Francis made history this morning in a news conference with something many Catholics never expected to hear: Gay clergymen should be forgiven and have their sins forgotten. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis remarked in Italian. “We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”

Since his appointment in March 2013, Pope Francis’ papacy has placed a lot of emphasis on reconnecting with the poor and marginalized groups. Particularly in comparison to predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, he is seen as a more conciliatory and socially progressive leader. Still, his stance on LGBT people has been fairly orthodox — he’s against gay marriage, for example, and he’s really, really against gay adoption — so his remarks today about being nonjudgmental came as a surprise to many.


“It’s a real departure from the rhetoric that has been coming from the previous two popes,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, in a phone interview. DignityUSA is a group that works for respect and justice for people of all sexual orientations, genders, and gender identities in the Catholic Church. “They tended to talk about us as ‘a threat to civilization’ and ‘doing harm to children’ and ‘effectively disordered.’ People were really surprised, I think, by just being shown a little respect.”

Church doctrine is not determined solely by the Pope, so the statements Pope Francis made today do not necessarily mark a change in doctrine or policy. But as the head of the Church, the position that Pope Francis takes is very influential. Duddy-Burke hopes that the change in tone he’s initiated will be echoed by Catholic bishops and cardinals. “The church as a whole is much more welcoming than it used to be decades ago, but the leadership is way behind and still living in an outdated place,” Duddy-Burke stated. Still, she said, ordinary churchgoers have often been in the lead on rights issues because they know (or are themselves) LGBT people.

Pope Francis’ news conference came at the end of a week-long visit to Brazil for World Youth Day. This year, over 3 million young Catholics took the pilgrimage to Rio de Janeiro to celebrate and reflect on their faith — including points of contention. On the first night, protesters gathered along the papal motorcade route for a same sex kiss-in. While Pope Francis has not issued any direct comments on this, he did make a speech emphasizing the theme: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” This seems poignant when spoken in a country that has seen identification with Catholicism fall from 90% to 65% in the last 40 years; top-down messages of inclusivity can only help the situation.

Whether the Church picks up Pope Francis’ message and runs with it remains to be seen. Regardless, Duddy-Burke expects the road ahead to be a long one. “The reality is that [LGBT] Catholics are in committed relationships, are having intimate sexual relationships, just like everybody else,” said Duddy-Burke. “Those relationships have the same kind of goodness that any other relationship has, and until that is fully recognized by our church, we still have a lot of work to do.”

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Laura Mandanas

Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Boston. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair. Follow her: @LauraMWrites.

Laura has written 210 articles for us.


  1. While it isn’t where we need to be it is a step in the right direction. I just wish my family would adopt this attitude (it’s better than being told I’m sick).

    • Well then I guess a small step for progress is better than none. When I read his statement, I still feel like he’s very much hoping people in the LGBTQ community will revert from their ways and become straight. I do like the fact however that we’re not being called ‘an abomination’ or ‘a threat to civilization.’ I’m still on the fence about him, he seems either neutral or just putting things in a nice way.

  2. I’m quite conflicted on Pope Francis. One on hand, he’s been incredible in terms of reaching out to groups that the Catholic church traditionally shuns, and he’s turned away from the hypocritical displays of wealth that the office has been known for. On the other hand, he’s still the head of one of the largest machines of oppression, discrimination, and anti-intellectualism in the world.

    I don’t know.

  3. YES. THIS. One of my friends posted an article about his quote on facebook and another person responded with a list of the Pope’s five worst quotes against gay people.

    I really wanted to get into a discussion about how yes, this is a small step, but the Catholic church moves entirely in slow steps over decades, but the person who responded was an ex of a particularly vicious breakup that I haven’t spoken to in four years and I didn’t feel like this was a good place to start.

    In short, thank you once again Autostraddle for giving me a place to share my feelings on current events that mean a lot to me besides facebook. :)

    • Totally with you. I know there’s no way we can topple the guy at the top, but if a few gay or gay-friendly priests join their ranks it has to mean something. When I was a kid, I didn’t give a shit what the Pope said, but I definitely listened to what my priest said. Clearly I could be wrong, but I’d like to imagine that gay priests might be more sympathetic to gay members of their parish. (Of course I’m not saying that anyone should follow Catholicism, but if someone wants to be part of the church, better that they get the opportunity to stay/make their own exit instead of being violently voted out)

  4. I won’t feel any more comfortable being gay in this society when the Pope decides it’s permissible. I’ll feel more comfortable when we stop deferring to the Pope on matters of human, and especially female, sexuality.

  5. Is this really such a departure, though? In the same speech he said “the door is closed” to female ordination and that gay people still need to be celibate. It’s like “yay yay the Pope doesn’t actively hate us!” and to me, that’s just not good enough. #bitterexcatholic

    • It’s the same old “hate the sin, love the sinner” bullshit and was the church’s stance prior to Pope Benedict so it’s not really a departure at all.

      • Yeah, I was just going to say the same thing! “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is nothing new and will make absolutely no difference in the Church’s treatment of LGBT folk or their political meddling around same. Why are we treating the Pope repeating the Church’s same ol’ same ol’ stance as if it’s news?

      • I interpret this as the pope reminding people that there are two parts of the phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Which I guess is half of a step forward.

    • Yeah I’m with you. Greeaat he doesn’t actively hate us but why should I care?
      UGH. I should stop reading too much stuff written by atheists, but I still hate the way Christianity is spread. And it needs to stop because everytime it spreads somewhere new, it’s somehow always the same struggles against all kinds of prejudices (against women, gay and trans people ect.) that we’ve already had.
      I’m starting to get so sick of it that I’d wish religion just wouldn’t exist.

      Like in Germany, we recently had a huge discussion of all kinds of religious people about a paper the evangelical church published because for them, the term “family” includes single-parents, divorced parents, gay parents…
      And I think that’s great and all, but if most of their “followers” (including my mother) don’t think that paper was right, then why even try? Why do we need your interpretation of an ancient book.
      I’m so over it, I should go to sleep.

  6. If I cared what he thought or still thought that the Church still had any moral authority, I might be slightly just a little tiny bit moved by this. Priests are required to be celibate anyway, and the Church’s stance is still that LGB laity should deny their own nature. Pffft. *eyeroll*

  7. I saw this on tumblr and immediately thought “this isn’t enough”, but as someone raised Catholic it still made me cry.

  8. Well, it’s still a bit “ok so long as you act straight and keep it quiet”, but it’s a start. As a pronouncement from a very powerful man (fairly or not) it could be a lot worse.

  9. ~ranting~

    Further to the above #NBD, this isn’t actually a step forward for the Church. Pope Francis’ position is already explicitly stated in the Catholic Catechism (Chastity and Homosexuality): http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm

    Basically, homosexual acts are inherently disordered and cannot be accepted, but people with homosexual desires should be treated with respect and dignity, because ~trials from God~. The Church should actually prefer queer Catholics to enter into ministry, because that would reaffirm their commitment to God and their own chastity.

    All Pope Francis has done is openly begin to bring the Church into line with its own existing doctrine.

    Load of good that’ll do my Atheist self in the end, though :P

  10. I agree with everybody who pointed out that what he’s saying is just more of the “love the sinner, hate the sin” bullshit.
    Also, during the event in Rio, Catholic groups handed out a leaflet (http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2013/07/1314561-kit-orienta-peregrinos-sobre-tabus-da-igreja.shtml -it’s in Portuguese) to the young Catholics and to journalists covering the event. This leaflet teaches people how to defend the Church’s position against marriage equality, against LGBT couples being allowed to adopt children, against trans* people’s rights, against pro-choice, against artificial fertilization (even when it’s a straight couple!)… It’s pure brainwashing.
    If anyone is interested in reading why the Pope’s statement shouldn’t be seen as something positive, you should check this post out: http://blogs.tn.com.ar/todxs/2013/07/29/tolerancia/ (This is from an Argentinian blog, so it’s in Spanish)

  11. it appreciate the gesture and all, i’m no longer considered “deviant” or a “threat to children” or whatever and should be interrogated into society but honestly! honestly! do you want me to thank this man for saying that and in the next breathe saying i shouldn’t be able to get married or adopt kids and having sex or showing affection towards my girlfriend is something i should repent for.

    sorry but fuck that bullshit. i’m embracing the angry lesbian in me and saying if you want to show people some love and respect treat us like it don’t just fucking saying it.

    it’s like saying to a woman, “oh we respect you and love you but we’re not quite sure you should have the right to vote because that goes against the nature of the relationship between men and women”

    fuck that!

  12. Other than trying to dial back the the gay-focus of the Church, which has been losing the “culture wars” left and right (except maybe in Russia), this pope hasn’t said anything new. He’s still anti marriage equality, he still thinks any non-celibate gay person is going against god, and he still thinks women shouldn’t be ordained. I’m not sure why he’s getting so much credit for being a “good guy” and a “change of pace”. He’s not. It’s the same old crap. Glad to see people pointing that out! And frankly, I could care less about what he has to say, on anything.

    • Yeah, he’s basically like the typical Nice Guy™ of the catholic church.
      Which makes him worse because the media likes him…

  13. About half of my family was *extremely* catholic while I was growing up, and I feel like this is the kind of thing my not-progressive-at-all Nana would have said. Basically the implication is that if you’re queer you should join the priesthood or a convent and pursue a life of celibacy.

    I know, I know. People tend to look out for the positive in events like these, but I have to be honest… I don’t think this is a progressive thing for Pope Francis to say. Not one bit.

  14. I fully respect the many comments on here that, in various ways, state that this isn’t a step at all. However, for me, it is a big step. Yes, Catholic teaching is essentially hate the sin, love the sinner. But, the Pope, the head of the Church, reminding people of the importance of love and respect for all humans is a vital message. The focus I took from his quote is that he acknowledges that it is not his (or anyone else’s) position to pass judgement on others.

    Also, the “hate the sin, love the sinner” mentality applies to many things in the Catholic Church-it isn’t specifically an LGBTQ related issue. In Catholic teaching, pre-marital sex is considered a sin. The Pope is never going to endorse pre-marital sex for heterosexual couples; he is always going to speak against it. However, these people still have inherent dignity.

    It breaks my heart to read on here how many people have by hurt by people claiming to preach Catholic views. I just want to give everyone an affirming hug.

    • I can’t think of any example where heterosexuals engaging in pre-marital sex have been told that they’re going to Hell, are perverted and an abomination against nature, and are unfit to be around children. Sorry, you can’t begin to draw analogies to how the Church views homosexuality vs. other “sins” that ultimately don’t strip away someone’s humanity.

  15. First comment on here since joining last week so pardon if I ramble.

    Being raised Catholic and going to Catholic school from ages 3-18, I have to say it took me a long time (I am really still in the process) of figuring out where I stand with my religion, my traditions, and God. I came to the realization a while ago that one’s relationship with God and their relationship with a Church are two very separate things. While my religion- my practices that regard my beliefs and faith- is very important to me, my spirituality – my actual relationship with God- is much more important. From what I know in speaking to others, reconciling what a particular Church thinks of oneself versus how God actually sees us is a struggle for many people both within and out of the LGBT community. Especially speaking in terms of a Church such as the R. C. Church, it can be really hard to own and individualize your own beliefs and relationship with your God.

    So basically, I still respect my roots, but if the views of the Church I was raised with actually kept me from having a healthy relationship with God, I figure becoming disconnected from myself and God just to stay completely connected to the Church would be foolish. I still go to Church on Sunday with Ma and Pa now that I’m home from school for the summer, but it’s not for them, and it’s definitely not for the Church.

    I’m also a firm believer that the worst kind of person is someone who preaches their own personal hatred in the name of God. Keeping people away from God with anti-love and anti-compassion rhetoric hurts every part of society, and that’s wherein the real sin lies.

    P.S. I started coming on this site last summer before I came out to my close friends and parents. I found it instantly to be a wonderful community and breath of fresh air. Finally making an account for this site last week felt cooler than registering to vote. Thanks, Autostraddle, keep doing what you’re doing.

    • THIS.

      It’s ironic that the LGBTQ has provided me with more love than (most) of my Christian friends, who upon coming out to them had one of 2 responses:
      – Pray the Gay Away
      – It’s Ok that you’re Gay, But You’re Still Gonna Pay (by not allowing you to have a relationship/marriage/kids)

      Both of these responses are pure bullshit. It’s not a loving response and it’s certainly not a reflection of what love is described as in the bible itself.

      Whilst I welcome the Pope’s comment, I also wholeheartedly agree that it’s not enough; like I’ve tried to explain to my friends, it’s fine to have a stance or an opinion, but they must be able to explain it to me AND be willing to hear the other side of the coin. If they can’t do that, then are they worthy of my time?

      Furthermore, the Pope’s influential position means that he could have made a HUGE difference on this issue; yet again, it’s not going to happen.

      (All that said, I still get goosebumps when I see a minister who is LGBTQ friendly and not afraid to stand up for our rights)

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