Catholics have begun to welcome Pope Francis’ recommendation that the church apologize to LGBT people, women, and others whom it has harmed. The pope made his remarks during an in-flight press conference on the return flight from his apostolic visit to Armenia over the weekend.
Jesuit Fr. James Martin, a noted author and commentator, called it “a dramatic, even historic” event. On Facebook, he stated:
Pope Francis is correct of course. The church should continually seek for forgiveness from those it has offended or offends–including the LGBT community. Seeking forgiveness is an essential part of the Christian life. Indeed, during the Jubilee Year, St. John Paul II asked for forgiveness on behalf of the church from, among other groups, Jews, women, indigenous peoples, immigrants, the poor and the unborn.
But this is surely a dramatic, even historic, statement.
And if you cannot fathom how much the church has marginalized the LGBT community, then you probably haven’t been listening very hard to the LGBT community. Ask them.
Terence Weldon of Queering the Church said he had expected this call for an apology, but not nearly so soon. He added:
Simply because there have now been a series of papal apologies to a wide range of groups previously attacked or persecuted by the Catholic authorities...LGBT people were at the back of the queue, but their turn had to come eventually....Now however, is not the time to carp. Let us first, offer profound thanks that Pope Francis has gone where none of his predecessors could – he’s asked of the entire Catholic community, "Who are WE to judge?"
Ryan Hoffman, co-executive director of Call To Action, a national Catholic justice organization, said in a statement that church leaders must apologize and then act:
Catholic officials must act to reform teachings and practices that refer to gay people as "objectively disordered" and "intrinsically evil" and which continue to exclude and deny women equal participation and leadership in the church. It’s time Francis’ wise words translate into just action. We stand ready to help the church move toward the institutional change Francis’ radical love often asks of us.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, called the pope’s remarks “a very important step” towards reconciliation. She also agreed in a statement that now action was required:
In order to bring about the full healing of the relationship between the Catholic Church and LGBT people, the Church must not only acknowledge the wrongs of the past, but take concrete actions that demonstrate its commitment to treating LGBT people justly from now on. For example, Catholic institutions must stop firing LGBT people simply because their sexual orientation or marital status becomes known. The Church must stop conducting public campaigns that seek the right to discriminate unjustly against LGBT people in the civil arena on the specious grounds of ‘religious liberty.’ It must cease campaigns against same-sex civil marriage and LGBT civil rights protections around the globe. And it must speak out strongly and clearly against the horrific violence and discrimination that is often directed against LGBT people in countries around the world, including our own, many with substantial or majority Catholic populations.
Follow New Ways Ministry for updates as more reactions and responses become available in the coming days.