GLAAD responds to no condemnation, no word of welcome for LGBT people from Pope Francis

GLAAD, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy organization, expressed disappointment and hopefulness in Pope Francis' lack of explicit welcoming messages for the thousands of LGBT people who followed his trip to the United States.

"As someone who was raised Catholic, I'm left both disappointed and hopeful by Pope Francis' visit to the United States -- disappointed that his Holiness didn't affirm the millions of LGBT Catholics who simply want to be accepted as equal children of God, but hopeful because our families were not attacked or condemned," said GLAAD CEO & President Sarah Kate Ellis. "As support for LGBT people continues to rise among Catholics, we look forward to the day when the church so many of us grew up to love will finally embrace us back, just as we are."

Instead, the Pope uttered coded phrases about strengthening and defending the family. His words stirred debate among LGBT advocates about their meaning. While there was no explicit word of welcome, there was no explicit condemnation, or even mention of LGBT people. 

For example, in his address to the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis stated:

I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

Francis then followed those comments about concern for youth, especially those who face hardship and violence. This was the pattern of many of his speeches, making references to strengthening the family, but then referencing economic and society hardships, instead of laying the blame at LGBT people. 

During his last homily in the United States, Pope Francis urged Catholics to move beyond a "narrow' definition of Catholicism, going as far as calling it a "perversion of faith." These words were the closest to being a word of welcome to all those margainlized, despite not naming LGBT people explicitly.

Jesus encountered hostility from people who did not accept what he said and did. For them, his openness to the honest and sincere faith of many men and women who were not part of God’s chosen people seemed intolerable. The disciples, for their part, acted in good faith. But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Mt 5:45), bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith. Hence it must be vigorously rejected.

God wants all his children to take part in the feast of the Gospel. Jesus says, “Do not hold back anything that is good, instead help it to grow!” To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not “part of our group”, who are not “like us”, is a dangerous temptation. Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith!

However, this trip is not necessarily the final word from the Pope on LGBT people and the family. Next month, cardinals, bishops, and Catholic leaders will be meeting for the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family. While the Pope's visit to the United States included a lot of speeches to the wider public about topics that are important to him, the Extraordinary Synod will be focused on determining church teaching and church policy.

As a Jesuit, Francis knows that love is better expressed in actions than words, and the actions that come out of that meeting is going to have profound effects on the rates of acceptance for LGBT people around the globe. GLAAD will continue to watch and to call for a church that listens to LGBT people and ministers according to their needs.

GLAAD has been leading the conversation about Pope Francis' visit to the US and the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and LGBT people. Visit www.glaad.org/pope for more detail. 

In June, a letter, signed by GLAAD's President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis and DignityUSA's Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke and endorsed with 29 additional sign-on organizations and people, was mailed directly to the Pope in July. It explains that LGBT people, including those in the Catholic Church, face "a compelling pastoral need" for "great healing and reconciliation." 

In August, GLAAD has released "The Papal Visit: A journalist's guide to reporting on Pope Francis and the LGBT community," a resource guide written in English and Spanish for journalists covering Pope Francis and LGBT Catholics.

GLAAD worked with Nicholas Coppola, a gay Catholic man, was stripped of all his involvement in his church after he married the man of his dreams. Nicholas created a Change.org petition, calling on Pope Francis to sit down and listen to stories like his. Over 8,000 people added their name, urging Pope Francis to meet with LGBT Catholics and their families during his trip to the United States.

GLAAD's #TellThePope Tumblr curated messages, photos, and videos showing what people would tell the pope, if given the opportunity to sit down with him. Submit a photo, video, or story to the Tell the Pope Tumblr about your experience as an LGBT person or ally.

GLAAD also released three short video portraits of LGBT Catholics, each with a message to the pope. GLAAD President & CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD's Director of Spanish language and Latino Media, Monica Trasandes, and Nicholas Coppola told personal memories of growing up Catholic for the featured subjects, and the impact it has on their lives today. All of them speak of the hope that they feel with Pope Francis, and the desire they have to be included and welcomed into the life of the Roman Catholic Church.

Finally, GLAAD was on the ground in Washington, New York, and Philadelphia during the Pope's visit and the World Meeting of Families. We worked with LGBT people and families making a pilgrimage as a part of the Equally Blessed coalition of LGBT and allied Catholic organizations.