VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Pope Francis encouraged parents of LGBTQ children to come alongside and help their children rather than stand in judgment of them during his weekly audience with the faithful on Wednesday (Jan. 26) at the Vatican.
While addressing the challenges many parents face when raising children, Francis mentioned “parents who see different sexual orientations in their children” who must learn “to handle this and accompany their children and not hide behind a condemning attitude.”
This isn’t the first time the pope has called for more compassionate understanding for LGBTQ individuals by Catholic faithful and the church in general. Starting with his now famous quote “who am I to judge?” in response to questions regarding gay clergy in 2013, Pope Francis has become synonymous with a greater openness and welcoming of LGBTQ people in the church.
In a 2019 interview with the Mexican broadcaster Televisa, the pope voiced support for civil unions for same-sex couples. Francis has also met personally with LGBTQ individuals at the Vatican, where he reportedly told them they are loved and welcomed by God. On several occasions, the pope has written letters of support for Catholics who minister to LGBTQ communities, including the Rev. James Martin and Sister Jeannine Gramick.
The pope has also urged Catholics not to discriminate against transgender people, whom he described as “the lepers of today” in a 2020 letter to an Argentine nun who provides safe housing for transgender women.
Despite Francis’ pastoral approach toward the LGBTQ community, there have been no changes to the official doctrine of the Catholic Church, which views homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered” and homosexual acts as a “sin.”
The Vatican’s doctrine watchdog agency, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a document in March of last year — signed by Pope Francis — prohibiting priests from blessing same-sex couples, stating the church “cannot bless sin.”
The pope has also been an outspoken critic of gender theory, describing it as a form of “ideological colonization” in which economically developed countries impose liberal views on family and sexuality on poorer countries in exchange for aid.
Francis’ comments Wednesday were made in the context of his reflections on St. Joseph, stepfather to Jesus, whom the pope praised as an example for parents raising children through the challenges of life.
“I think also about parents facing their children’s problems. Children with many diseases, children who are sick, even with permanent illnesses,” he said. Francis spoke about parents who lose their children due to illness or accidents but also parents who struggle watching their children fail in school or in life.
“Never condemn a child,” the pope said, recalling the many mothers who waited in line to visit their children in prison in his home diocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Francis praised the “courage of dads and moms who always accompany children. Let’s ask the Lord to give all fathers and all mothers this courage which he gave Joseph.”