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Pope: Church Should Help Families Stand by LGBT Members

Pope: Church Should Help Families Stand by LGBT Members

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In a new interview, the pontiff says this was the focus of LGBT-related discussion at a recent bishops' meeting, not issues regarding same-sex couples and marriage.

Supporting parents of LGBT children, not addressing same-sex marriage, was the focus of LGBT-related discussion at the Roman Catholic Church's recent Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis said in a new in-depth interview with Argentinian newspaper La Nacion.

The pope, a native of Argentina and former archbishop of the nation, responded to questions on a wide array of topics, including marriage and family. LGBT Catholic leaders differ on the significance of his remarks in the interview.

Here is the LGBT-focused question and response, as translated in La Nacion:

La Nacion: Conservative sectors, specially in the United States, fear that the traditional doctrine will collapse, they say the synod caused confusion because though it did mention the "positive nuances" of living together, and gay couples were mentioned in the draft, although the bishops then backed off.
Pope Francis: The synod was a process; the opinion of a synodal father was just that, the opinion of a synodal father; and a first draft was merely a first draft meant to record it all. Nobody mentioned homosexual marriage at the synod, it did not cross our minds. What we did talk about was of how a family with a homosexual child, whether a son or a daughter, goes about educating that child, how the family bears up, how to help that family to deal with that somewhat unusual situation. That is to say, the synod addressed the family and the homosexual persons in relation to their families, because we come across this reality all the time in the confessional: a father and a mother whose son or daughter is in that situation. This happened to me several times in Buenos Aires. We have to find a way to help that father or that mother to stand by their son or daughter. That's what the synod addressed. That's why someone mentioned positive factors in the first draft. But this was just a draft.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the LGBT Catholic group DignityUSA, said the draft document released by the synod -- a draft that would have included affirming statements about LGBT people, which were omitted from the finalized document -- made it clear that the gathering did include discussions about same-sex couples, not just parents of LGBT children.

Referencing the recent traditional marriage summit, Duddy-Burke said that it seems as if right-wing interests are exerting pressure on the Vatican to maintain the status quo.

"I think that the continued witness to the fact that there are LGBT families of all sorts in our church is even more important in the face of this kind of opposition, and I think families need to keep being visible and keep speaking up about the challenges that we face," she said.

New Ways Ministry executive director Francis DeBernardo, however, had a more hopeful take on the interview, which he called "one more step in Pope Franciss' journey of reaching out to the LGBT Catholic community."

"I think that while the synod did not make a statement about marriage between gay and lesbian couples ... I'm sure that the bishops had discussions about that topic because it is such an important topic even for those who disagree with it," DeBernardo said. "I think that outreach to families ... with LGBT members ... that was one of the best things the synod did [and] is really an important first step for the Catholic church. ...

"I think what the pope is doing, from my point of view, is that he's changing the tone of the discussion. He hasn't changed any doctrine or policies ... but the fact that he's opened the discussion and opened it with such a welcoming tone is having a great effect in the Catholic world in terms of how people at the grassroots respond to LGBT people and issues ... I've just seen much more of a willingness in local Catholic institutions to address LGBT issues positively."

DeBernardo said that doctrinal changes "yet need to happen." The La Nacion interview included a question posed to the pope about the fears some people have that "traditional doctrine shall collapse."

Here is an excerpt from the pope's response: "You know, some people are always afraid because they don't read things properly, or they read some news in a newspaper, an article, and they don't read what the synod decided, what was published. What was worthwhile about the synod? The post synodal connection and the Pope`s address. That is definitive, but it will eventually become relative and provisional, turning into a 'guideline' for the next synod ... Different bishops who had different approaches, but we will all move on together. We had to protect our work so that the Holy Spirit might move forward. I am not afraid."

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