Local Catholics have welcomed recent comments from Pope Francis that parents of a child with same sex attraction should never reject their child but accompany them with the help of their faith.
Speaking at his 26 January general audience in Rome, the Pope continued his catechesis on St Joseph which he began last year, advising his listeners to rely on the power of prayer as the saint did, to face life’s difficulties “without succumbing” to pain and fear.
“I am thinking, too, of parents who are facing their children’s problems: children with many illnesses, children who are sick, even with permanent illnesses, how much pain is there!
“Parents who see different sexual orientations in their children; how to deal with this and accompany their children and not hide in an attitude of condemnation…to [all] these parents I say: do not be afraid. Yes, there is pain. A lot. But think about how Joseph solved problems and ask Joseph to help you. Never condemn a child.”
Parents who see different sexual orientations in their children; how to deal with this and accompany their children and not hide in an attitude of condemnation.” -Pope Francis
It is the latest instance of Pope Francis reaching out pastorally to those who experience differing sexual orientations. Last December he sent a handwritten letter to US co-founder of a Catholic apostolate to the LGBT community Sister Jeannine Gramick SL, congratulating her on 50 years of “closeness, of compassion and of tenderness” in a ministry that he described as being in ‘the style’ of God”.
Team leader of Sydney Catholic Youth Milad Khalil said that in his experience of youth ministry almost every time young people have an opportunity to ask a question that pertains to the Catholic faith, “the Church’s teaching on homosexuality is bound to make an appearance”.
“Based on their approach to the questions and their reaction to the response, it is quite clear that this teaching is one of the most misunderstood,” he added.
“The perception among young people seems to be that the Church condemns the person who is same-sex attracted, rather than the condemnation of the behaviour, in the same way the Church condemns other behaviours like pre-marital sex, the use of pornography and other forms of sexual immorality.
“It really breaks my heart because when young people are given opportunities to unpack this and other similar teachings, what we find is they automatically become much more receptive to what the Church has to say, because they finally get a chance to hear the truth.”
Former gay rights activist James Parker said he believed Pope Francis was saying that it is imperative that each person is treated at all times with respect, sensitivity and compassion.
“And rightly so,” Mr Parker said. “No one chooses their sexual attractions. These are a byproduct, certainly for the most part and for most people, of environment and formative experiences.
To fail to recognise that we live in a fallen world where everyone’s sexual attractions need to be redeemed and prostrated before the light of Christ is to diminish each other’s dignity before God.” – James Parker
“However, to accept each other’s sexual attractions is one thing, but it does not offer the full vision of human sexuality. To fail to recognise that we live in a fallen world where everyone’s sexual attractions need to be redeemed and prostrated before the light of Christ is to diminish each other’s dignity before God.
“This is never acceptable and eventually brings about injustice, which is in direct opposition to love and the best that God has for His children.
“Parents need to remember that there is not only one narrative, and that the LGBTQ+ community does not have the only, or final, say on matters relating to human sexuality. Biology cannot change; feelings can, as can attractions, and many people experience changes in different ways over their lifetimes.
“All of us – parents, politicians, church leaders, sexuality protagonists and ideologues – need to learn to listen more deeply, to open up greater not lesser debate on this topic, and to reflect carefully on everyone’s lived experience.
“We need especially to become more attune to how Christ identifies us, which is never according to sexual attractions but rather according to our being created in His image and likeness.”
Fr John Flader, The Catholic Weekly columnist and author of the Question Time books welcomed Pope Francis’s comments, saying that they reflected the Pope’s deep sense of compassion.
“Most parents would find them reassuring and comforting,” he said. “After all, no matter what their children may have done, or what they think or how they live, they are still their beloved children.
However, he said, in urging parents to accompany their children Pope Francis was not condoning a sinful lifestyle.
“On the contrary, on 22 February 2021 he approved a statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith forbidding priests to bless same-sex couples,” Fr Flader explained. “The statement was a response to the question of whether the Church has the power to give a blessing to unions of persons of the same sex, and the answer was in the negative.”