In his time leading the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has made multiple public statements suggesting a softening of the church’s view on LGBTQ+ identities. And a recent private conversation between the Pope and a gay man may be a sign of even more progressive views to come within the Catholic Church.
Juan Carlos Cruz, who was reportedly sexually abused as a child by Chilean priest Fernando Karadima, recently spent time with Pope Francis at the Vatican, during which the Pope offered kind — and perhaps surprising — words about his sexuality. According to The Guardian, Juan Carlos said the topic came up because some Chilean bishops reportedly accused him of lying about his abuse, and attempted to paint him as a pervert.
But Pope Francis reportedly made it clear that Juan Carlos’s sexuality is not an issue, in his or God’s eyes. As Juan Carlos told CNN, the Pope said, “You know, Juan Carlos, that does not matter. God made you like this. God loves you like this. The Pope loves you like this and you should love yourself and not worry about what people say.”
The report comes shortly after all active Chilean bishops resigned in the wake of a sex-abuse scandal that centered around Juan Carlos’s alleged abuser, Rev. Karadima (who, in 2011, was found guilty of sexually abusing children). According to CNN, a Vatican spokesman declined to comment on the conversation; but if true, it could represent an important shift in the Catholic Church’s stance.
In a 2013 press conference, Pope Francis publicly stated, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?”
And in 2016, he officially suggested a softening of the Catholic Church’s reception of LGBTQ+ people in a letter titled, “The Joy of Love,” writing, “We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration.”
But the difference here, as Christopher Lamb, the Vatican correspondent for the Tablet tod The Guardian, is the Pope’s reference to God’s views. “It goes beyond ‘who am I to judge?’ to ‘you are loved by God,’” Lamb said.
Of course, even if Pope Francis has encouraged greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ people and is making comments suggesting God loves them too; he has not officially endorsed same-sex marriage, and the Catholic Church still considers homosexuality to be a sin. That said, progress doesn’t happen overnight, and this could be a sign of more changes to come. As Lamb said, “I don’t think he has changed church teaching but he’s demonstrating an affirmation of gay Catholics, something that has been missing over the years in Rome.”