All God’s Children

What Pope Francis’ Acceptance Means for the LGBTQ+ Community

Pope Francis expressed support for same-sex civil unions in the new documentary film “Francesco” that premiered on Wednesday, Oct. 21 at the Rome Film Festival.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” Pope Francis said in the film. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

His statement comes after decades of friction between the LGBTQ+ community and the Roman Catholic Church, with Pope Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, calling homosexuality an “intrinsic moral evil.” However, views are steadily changing, as 61 percent of Catholics polled in favor of marriage equality as of 2019. Many see the pope’s words as another important step in further mending the animosity between the two groups. 

“It is no overstatement to say that, with this statement, not only has the pope protected LGBTQ couples and families, but he also will save many LGBTQ lives,” said Francis DeBernando, a minister at New Ways Ministry, which supports LGBTQ+ Catholics. 

Francis advocated for legal action to protect the rights of same-sex couples by introducing the idea of Civil Union Law, where same-sex civil unions would be legally protected. 

“I was really happy about it,” Gender and Sexuality Alliance Co-President and communications junior Emma Kutcher said. “I was like ‘finally’, they’re starting to realize that being gay shouldn’t define someone in a negative way.”

LGBTQ+ youth who come out to religious parents face the threat of becoming unwelcome in their homes, which is why approximately 400,000 gay youths are homeless, with 40 percent reporting the cause to be familial rejection. 

“I grew up feeling like I had to hide everything, even something so basic as who I love, and that was something to be ashamed of and to hide,” said visual sophomore Alyssa McIntosh, who grew up in a Roman Catholic household. 

The LGBTQ+ community hopes there will be a paradigm shift of the Catholic Church in terms of gay marriage. Though Pope Francis has previously made ambiguous statements about his tolerance for same-sex couples, this is the first time he offered explicit support. 

“Love is love and people should just be free to love whoever they want,” Kutcher said. “I think it’s important that these figures with a lot of influence speak out about [it] because it can show people that we all deserve the same equality.” 

These remarks come at a time when the issue of gay marriage is potentially in jeopardy — with two current Supreme Court justices speaking out in dissent for the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case that gave gay couples the legal right to marry. With the recent confirmation of the Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who has been open about her Catholic faith — many members of the LGBTQ+ community fear the ruling will be overturned. 

“There’s a lot of shame,” McIntosh said of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBTQ+ community. “There’s a lot of hatred.”

Pope Francis’ comments have sparked extreme controversy among more conservative Catholics. This is not new, as Francis’ more progressive views have long concerned many Catholics, who fear he is shifting away from their original doctrine.

“The Pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the Church about same-sex unions,” Bishop Thomas Tobin of Rhode Island said in a statement. “The Church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships.”

Nonetheless, members of the LGBTQ+ community have rallied behind Pope Francis and hope that this is only the start of the Catholic Church’s acceptance of gay couples everywhere. 

“It’s so amazing to see the father figure of Catholicism accepting us and showing everybody [that] it’s ok to be who you are,” vocal sophomore Saedi Superficial said, who identifies as bisexual. 

Though progress in the acquisition of human rights has taken decades of strife, with plenty more work to be done, many are hopeful for the future of LGBTQ+ youth around the world. 

“Peace can be achieved with baby steps that bring us forward into a better reality,” Kutcher said. “Pope Francis played a really big part in that.”