ROME – Leaders of Catholic gay groups on Monday praised Pope Francis for saying all Christians and the Roman Catholic Church owe gay people an apology for previous abuse, even as the groups called on the church to take more concrete measures to repudiate past teachings and condemn violence against homosexuals.
Crossing the sky on Sunday evening in his papal airliner, returning from a visit to Armenia, Francis also visibly winced, momentarily overcome with emotion, when a reporter, Cindy Wooden, mentioned the recent attack in a box. Orlando’s gay nightclub and noted that Christians are sometimes accused of stigmatizing homosexuals.
Francis did not directly address the Orlando murders. But he approved a comment from one of his best advisers who, shortly after the Orlando bombing, said the church marginalized homosexuals and should apologize.
The Pope said the church “must” not only apologize to a homosexual it has offended, “but we must apologize to the poor, to the women who have been exploited, to the children forced into labor.” .
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a leading organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, said the pope’s remarks were a powerful, if not sufficient, statement.
“For a pope to recognize that the church has done so much harm to homosexuals, and that we deserve an apology, is an act of unprecedented humility,” she said in a telephone interview. “But a declaration of remorse is only as good as the behavior change that follows.”
Francis’ awareness of homosexuals is part of his larger effort to welcome people who have felt marginalized by the church. He made the headlines early in his papacy when he signaled a new openness to homosexuals when he said the famous phrase “Who am I to judge?” “
Francis’s words raised hope among some Catholic homosexuals and others that he could bring about significant changes within the church itself. Some advocates have even questioned whether he could relax the church’s ban on same-sex marriage as part of its broader movement to make the church more welcoming to unconventional families.
But FranÃ§ois strongly opposed same-sex marriage. His long-awaited document on family life, âAmoris Laetitiaâ, called on the church to welcome homosexuals but categorically closed the door to same-sex marriage.
âHe is not liberal,â said Reverend Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit priest close to the Pope. Instead, Father Spadaro said Francis seeks to avoid categorizing people and wants a welcoming environment without discrimination.
“Of course,” he added, “he wants an open-door church.”
In a statement, Ryan Hoffman, co-executive director of Call to Action, a Catholic group, praised Francis’ remarks but also called on Catholic officials to “reform the teachings and practices that characterize homosexuals as’ objectively messy ‘and” inherently bad. ‘ “
“It is time for Francis’ wise words to translate into righteous deeds,” Hoffman said.
Ms Duddy-Burke spoke of cases of gay Catholic school workers being fired in the United States after they were married in civil ceremonies. She also noted that bishops around the world often play a leading role in campaigns against gay rights.
âWe need the church to understand the reality of our lives,â she said. “And where the teaching and practice of the church has caused so much trouble.”
Popes have a tradition of apologizing for past sins of the church. In 2000, Pope John Paul II issued a sweeping apology for the errors of the church in the previous 2000 years. Francis himself offered a vivid apology during his 2015 trip to South America, when he asked for forgiveness for the church’s complicity in the brutality of the era of Spanish colonialism.
âThere are a lot of people in the Vatican who don’t like the church admitting that we’ve ever done anything wrong,â said Reverend Thomas J. Reese, Jesuit priest and senior analyst for The National Catholic Reporter. “With homosexuals, this is especially important because they still face persecution and discrimination all over the world, and even in the United States.”