Pic: Jeffrey Bruno
The Pope is once again conveying mixed messages to Catholics; urging parents of gay children not to judge them but also to consider sending them to a psychiatrist.
Pope Francis made the comments on his return from Dublin, where he had attended the World Meeting of Families.
The event was the subject of much controversy, mainly around criticism over the Vatican’s handling of child abuse cases involving priests as well as the issue of LGBT equality.
Speaking to journalists on the flight back to Rome, the Pontiff was asked what he would say to a father whose son had come out as gay, reported La Stampa.
“First of all I will say to pray, then not to condemn; to talk, to understand, to make room for the son or daughter,” he replied.
Francis went on to say that it also depended “on the age that this disquiet is manifested.” He explained that, “It is one thing if it manifests itself as a child; there is much that psychiatry can do. It is another if it manifests itself at twenty.”
He added: “But never will I say that silence is a remedy. Ignoring the homosexual son or daughter is a lack of paternity or motherhood. ‘I’m your father, I’m your mother, we talk; I’m not sending you away from the family’.”
The Pope’s words are positive in the sense that they urge parents to be understanding of their gay children but they could also be taken to mean that homosexuality can be ‘changed’ through the intervention of a psychiatrist. Most major mental health bodies around the world, however, reject this belief and argue that counseling should be used to help children accept their sexuality, not change it.
During his trip to Ireland, Francis met with the country’s openly gay Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar. In a speech at Dublin Castle to welcome the Pope, Varadkar made clear his opposition to the Vatican’s outdated views on sexuality and same-sex marriage.
He said that the church had a shared “legacy of pain and suffering” and that instead of “Christian charity, forgiveness and compassion, far too often there was judgment, severity and cruelty.”
Varadkar continued as the Pope watched on: “We have voted in our Parliament and by referendum to modernise our laws – understanding that marriages do not always work, that women should make their own decisions, and that families come in many forms including those headed by a grandparent, lone parent, or same-sex parents or parents who are divorced.”
In May 2015, Ireland voted in a national referendum to legalise same-sex marriage, making it the first nation to put the issue to a public vote. The Vatican responded at the time by saying that the outcome was a “defeat for humanity.”
While Pope Francis has shown a willingness for the church to be more accepting of gay individuals he has remained opposed to the recognition of transgender people, same-sex families and same-sex marriages, describing these in public statements as threats to the family and humanity.