Pope in effort to reach out to gay Catholics

Francis holds out little hope of any review of church doctrines on sexuality or women priests

Pope Francis listens to a journalist’s question as he flies back to Rome following his visit to Brazil. Photograph: Luca Zennaro/Reuters

Pope Francis listens to a journalist’s question as he flies back to Rome following his visit to Brazil. Photograph: Luca Zennaro/Reuters


Pope Francis has attempted to reach out to gay Catholics saying he would not judge people by their sexual orientation during a frank press conference with journalists at the end of this trip to Brazil.

Asked about a supposed “gay lobby” in the Vatican by reporters on his flight back to Rome on Sunday night, he replied: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I, for charity, to judge him?” He said Catholic teaching opposed discrimination of gay people who “must be integrated into society”.

He said the church had to distinguish between “the fact someone is gay and forms a gay lobby because all lobbies are not good”. He nonetheless downplayed the existence of such a lobby, noting: “I still have not seen anyone in the Vatican with a Vatican ID saying they are gay.”

Many gay Catholics have become estranged from the church since a 1986 pastoral letter penned by Pope Francis’s predecessor Benedict when he was the cardinal in charge of church doctrine.

One of the basic tenets of Vatican teaching on homosexuality, it states: “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

After he became pope in 2005, Benedict approved a new Vatican policy that sought to prevent men with homosexual tendencies from becoming priests, even if they were celibate.

However, despite appearing to adopt a softer position on gay priests than his predecessor, Pope Francis held out little hope of any review of the church’s doctrines on sexuality during Sunday’s interview.

When asked why he had not talked about abortion or gay marriage during his visit to Brazil for World Youth Day, he replied: “On this the church has a clear doctrine. I wanted to talk about positive things . . . Anyway young people know perfectly what the church’s position is.”

Pope Francis also dismissed the possibility of ordination for women. “The church has already spoken and said no . . . this door is closed.”

Before heading back to Rome, Pope Francis also delivered a harsh critique on his church’s organisation in the region, where it has lost ground to evangelical Protestant churches in recent decades.

He called for a more missionary church whose bishops give up a “psychology of princes”.

Speaking to the co-ordinating committee of the Latin- American Episcopal Conference just before leaving Brazil, he said for the church to remain relevant in rapidly changing societies across Latin America – home to 42 per cent of the world’s Catholics – “entails a whole process of reforming ecclesial structures”.