[Papal in-flight press conferences under Pope Francis are generally wide-ranging and off-the-cuff, and therefore sometimes controversial, and the presser held as the pontiff returned to Rome after visiting Georgia and Azerbaijan was very full. While his other remarks will be covered as well, Aleteia focuses here specifically on his thoughts concerning the pastoral care of the transgendered person. This seems appropriate as Pope Francis here made a direct plea to the press that his words not be reduced to sensational headlines, or taken out of context. – Ed]
Now there is Joshua McElwee, from the American news outlet, National Catholic Reporter.
Thank you, Holy Father. In that same address yesterday in Georgia, you spoke, as in many other countries, about gender theory, saying that is is the great enemy, and a threat against marriage. But I would like to ask: what would you say to a person who has suffered for years with his or her sexuality and truly feels there is a biological problem, that his or her physical aspect does not correspond to what he or she considers his or her own sexual identity? As a pastor and minister, how would you accompany these people?
First of all, in my life as a priest, as a bishop — even as Pope — I have accompanied people with homosexual tendencies and homosexual practices. I have accompanied them, I brought them closer to the Lord — some were not able, but I accompanied them and I never abandoned anyone. This is what must be done. People must be accompanied as Jesus accompanies them. When a person who has this condition comes before Jesus, Jesus will surely tell him not: “Be gone, because you’re gay!,” No. What I said concerns the evil that is done today through the indoctrination of gender theory. A French father was telling me that he was speaking at table with his children — he was Catholic, his wife was Catholic, the children were Catholic, the garden variety, but Catholics — and he asked the ten-year-old boy: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “A girl,” [the boy responded]. And the father realized that gender theory was being taught in the schoolbooks. And this is against natural things. It is one thing for a person to have this tendency, this option, and there are also those who change sex. And it is another thing to have this line of thought taught in the schools, to change the mentality. This is what I call “ideological colonization.”
Last year I received a letter from a Spaniard who told me his story as a boy and a youth. He was a little girl, a young lady, and she suffered a lot, because she felt like a boy, but physically she was a girl. She told her mother, when she was already twenty years old, 22 years old, and she told her she wanted to have the surgery and all these things. And the mother asked her not to do so as long as she was alive. She was old, and soon died. She had the surgery. He is an employee of a ministry in a city in Spain.
He went to the bishop. The bishop accompanied him so much; he was a good bishop, he “wasted” time to accompany this man. Then [the transgender man] got married. He changed his civil identity, got married and wrote me a letter saying it would be a consolation to visit me with his wife: he, who was a she, but is a he. And I received them. They were happy.
And in the neighborhood where he lived there was an old priest, 80 years-old, the old parish priest, who had left parish work and was helping the sisters, there, in the parish … And there was the new [pastor]. When the new [pastor] saw [the transgendered man], he shouted at him from the sidewalk: “You will go to hell!” When [the transgendered man] met the old one, this [pastor] would say: “How long has it been since you’ve been to confession? Come, come, let’s go and you can confess, and in this way you can go to Communion.”
Do you understand? Life is life, and you have to take things as they come. Sin is sin. Tendencies or hormonal imbalances cause many problems, and we have to be careful not to say: “It’s all the same, let’s celebrate.” No, not that. But in each case: welcome [the situation], accompany it, study it, discern it and integrate it. This is what Jesus would do today. Please, don’t say: “The Pope will canonize the transsexuals!” Please! Because I can already see the headlines … No, no. Is there any doubt about what I said? I want to be clear. It is a moral issue. It is a problem. It is a human problem. And it has to be resolved as one is able, always with the mercy of God, with truth, as we have said in the case of marriage, reading the whole of Amoris laetitia, but always this way, always with an open heart. And don’t forget that chapter of Vezelay: it is very nice, very nice.