British comedian Stephen K. Amos confronted Pope Francis about LGBTQ acceptance during a meeting on a documentary series – and got at least a somewhat supportive answer.
Amos, who is gay, was one of eight U.K. celebrities participating in the BBC reality show Pilgrimage: The Road to Rome. They made their way over a 1,000-kilometer (about 620 miles) section of a pilgrimage route from Canterbury, England, to Rome last September, and at the end were granted an audience with the pope. Amos, though, said he wouldn’t attend the audience unless he could ask Francis about the Catholic Church’s treatment of LGBTQ people, iNews reports.
“I’ve been quite vocal in my criticism in certain aspects of the Catholic Church,” he told the site. “I thought a private audience meant you go and see him, he blesses you and you leave. I couldn’t in all conscience go and do that, it’s not me.” Then the show’s producers agreed to submit some questions to the pope, and received word that Francis would answer any queries the pilgrims pose.
So in the show’s final episode, airing Friday night on BBC Two, Amos told Pope Francis, “As a gay man, I don’t feel accepted.” The pope responded, “Giving more importance to the adjective rather than the noun, this is not good. We are all human beings and have dignity. It does not matter who you are or how you live your life, you do not lose your dignity. There are people that prefer to select or discard people because of the adjective – these people don’t have a human heart.” Amos said he also asked the pope about acceptance of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, but those questions don’t appear in the episode.
“He didn’t shut anybody down, he was very clear in what we said about all being God’s children, all the things you don’t normally hear,” said Amos, who noted that he had expected a “stock answer” from Francis instead. “So I was in full respect of the man. I had already planned what I would do if he had said something I didn’t agree with or that would add more shame on people’s lives, I would have respectfully excused myself. I couldn’t live with myself otherwise.”
Pope Francis has sent mixed messages on LGBTQ issues during his tenure. He is famed for his “Who am I to judge?” remark about gay priests but has also said gay priests are not welcome in the church. He has met with gay and transgender people who described his manner as loving and supportive, yet he has said same-sex couples don’t meet the church’s definition of family and denounced gender-affirmation procedures. The church remains intractably opposed to same-sex relationships; Catholics with same-sex attractions should never act on them, according to church doctrine.
Nonetheless, New Ways Ministry, a group that advocates for LGBTQ equality within the church, praised Francis’s response to Amos. “The pope is showing that the social justice tradition about human dignity is more important than the sexual ethics tradition, which does not approve of same-gender sexual relationships,” New Ways director Francis DeBernardo wrote on the group’s website.
Amos said he is not religious but joined the pilgrimage because he was looking for faith and answers, especially given the recent deaths of his mother and twin sister. The pope’s response moved him to tears, according to London’s Mirror newspaper. “He gave me faith in humanity,” Amos said. “He knows his response to my question ... will have ramifications around the world.”