LGBT Catholics challenge Pope’s claim that gay families ‘aren’t valid’

LGBT Catholics have challenged Pope Francis over an assertion that “a man and a woman” is the only model for starting a family.

The Pope caused anger on Saturday (June 16) when he made the remarks in an address to Catholic lobbying group Forum delle Famiglie.

The religious leader had said: “It is painful to say this today: People speak of varied families, of various kinds of family… [but] the family of man and woman in the image of God is the only one.”

Pope Francis addresses the crowd from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking St Peter’s square during his Angelus prayer on June 17, 2018 at the Vatican. (ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty)

His comments have been met with anger from LGBT Catholics, who are concerned that the Church is continuing to tie itself to an “outdated” view of family.

Marianne Duddy-Burke of inclusive Catholic group DignityUSA said: “Once again, the Pope is making a sweeping statement that is not grounded in reality, or even in good theology.

“Families take all kinds of forms. How many single women and men are raising children, for a host of reasons? There are divorced or never-married couples who work to co-parent children. Same-sex couples and single LGBTQI people have children from heterosexual marriages, through adoption, or through giving birth. Some have taken in the children their heterosexual siblings are unable to raise.

“There are multi-generational extended families. There are couples, straight and gay, that are caring for ageing loved ones. There are people who have no legal or genetic bond that are family to one another. Can God not be reflected in the love and commitment these people have for each other?

“As a married lesbian raising two adopted children, I am reacting very personally. I hear the Pope as saying my family—and millions of others—lack sacredness and validity. That is painful and wrong.

“I welcome the Pope to spend a single day in our home, and I truly believe he would experience a ‘real’ family.”

Becky and Marianne Duddy-Burke

The group also challenged the Pope’s repeated pirouetting on the issue, having recently gathered a large amount of media attention when he was alleged to have told a gay man that his sexuality “doesn’t matter” because “God loves you”.

At the same time the Pope used a private meeting to warn bishops in Italy that they should reject any applicants to the priesthood who they suspect might be gay – and he has made no public attempts to alter the Church’s anti-LGBT teachings and discriminatory actions in Catholic institutions across the world.

Duddy-Burke continued: “We are mystified by the sudden turns in the tone and content of statements by Pope Francis on LGBTQI people and issues.

“Recently we heard reports that he told a Chilean survivor of sexual abuse that God made him gay and loves him as he is. These reports have not been denied by the Vatican.

“If true, how is it then wrong for an LGBTQI person to form a family rooted in love and care for its members, which may also include children?”

Pope Francis attends the general assembly of the Italian Bishops Conference, on May 21, 2018 in Vatican. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP) (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis (VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty)

She added: “We are left to wonder: Are there power struggles going on within the Vatican between those who want greater acceptance for LGBTQI people and those who do not?

“Do statements like the Pope’s most recent one indicate a calculated and wilful intention to remain ignorant of our lives? Do the Pope and the bishops truly want to learn about the realities of LGBTQI lives and families?

“When will the Vatican acknowledge the need to confront and change its tremendously damaging and contradictory teachings and language about LGBTQI people? Whatever the case, it is LGBTQI people and families around the globe who are paying the terrible price for the statements and actions of the Pope and the Vatican.”

The Catholic campaigner added: “Anything Pope Francis says has implications far beyond his immediate audience. Comments like this are used to ban people who could be loving, stable, generous parents from caring for the hundreds of thousands of children in foster care.

“They are used by some to justify discrimination towards families and individuals they do not understand. They divide families by labeling some as outside of God’s plans.

“We continue to call for the Pope and other church leaders to set aside their belief that they hold exclusive knowledge of God’s heart and mind, and to listen deeply and with humility to the ways the Divine is revealed in the lives of God’s people.”

Pope Francis (Franco Origlia/Getty)

The Pope’s comments come ahead of the World Meeting of Families meeting that is set to take place in Ireland – a major Catholic event attended by the Pope that has been marred by controversy over disputes over LGBT families.

Anti-LGBT Catholic lobbyists forced organisers to remove all references to homosexuality from booklets produced ahead of the event.

The dispute has become politically charged in Ireland, which takes a progressive stance on LGBT issues that is at odds with the Church’s official stances on gay families.

Speaking in the Irish Parliament the country’s Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar, who is one of the few openly gay world leaders, expressed a hope that LGBT families would also be celebrated at the event.

He said: “The Government is very much of the view that there are many different types of families and that all types should be celebrated, including the traditional nuclear family with the man married to the woman with children, but also one-parent families, families led by grandparents, and families led by same-sex couples.

“We will make it known in our meetings with the organisers that in line with our commitment to personal liberty and equality before the law, the Government’s view is that families in all their forms should be celebrated.”