Pope to Gay Man: ‘God Made You Like This. God Loves You Like This.’

By Emily Wells*
May 23, 2018

In a private conversation, Pope Francis assured a victim of clerical abuse that God had made him gay: “God loves you like this” and his sexuality “does not matter,” according to CNN.

The abuse survivor, Juan Carlos Cruz, was molested by a Chilean priest who was found guilty of that crime in 2011. In the years since, more attention has been brought to widespread abuse by priests in Chile, and this month all of the 31 active bishops in that country resigned over the scandal. The bishops announced in a statement that they place the issue “in the hands of the Holy Father so that he might freely decide for each one of us.”

In April, Cruz spent three days with Pope Francis in Vatican City to discuss his experiences of abuse and his sexuality.

“You know, Juan Carlos, that does not matter,” the pope said, according to Cruz. “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 Vatican does “not normally comment on the pope’s private conversations,” a Vatican spokesperson said.

In 1975, the Vatican put out a declaration on sexual ethics that said “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of.” CNN writes, “The Pope’s words [to Cruz] would amount to a significant departure from the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, which considers homosexuality ‘objectively disordered’ and contrary to God’s law.” Indeed, in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI said that “those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’ ” could not join a seminary or a holy order.

Though he has formally retained the position of Benedict, who was his predecessor, Francis has made comments that suggest he views the issue differently. In 2013, Francis said, “who am I to judge” in answering a question about whether there was a “gay lobby” in the Vatican. “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” he said.

The Guardian writes:

“The new remarks appear to go much further in embracing homosexuality as a sexual orientation that is designed and bestowed by God. It suggests that Francis does not believe that individuals choose to be gay or lesbian, as some religious conservatives argue.

Austen Ivereigh, who has written a biography of the pope, said Francis had likely made similar comments in private in the past, when he served as a spiritual director to gay people in Buenos Aires, but that Cruz’s public discussion of his conversation with Francis represented the most “forceful” remarks on the subject since 2013.

It did not, however, represent a shift in church teaching, Ivereigh said, since the church had never formally made any pronouncements on why individuals were gay.

Christopher Lamb, a Vatican correspondent, said the pope’s comments showed a shift in attitudes taking place. “It goes beyond ‘who am I to judge?’ to ‘you are loved by God,’ ” he 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.”

* Emily Wells is an Ear to the Ground blogger at Truthdig. As a journalist, she began as a crime reporter at the Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Press-Enterprise. She has also focused on arts and culture writing, contributing to Vogue, ​The Los Angeles Review of Books, Purple Fashion Magazine, Artillery Magazine, and other publications. In 2017, she received her MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Riverside, where she taught courses in writing, English, and philosophy. She is currently working on a novel and is based in Los Angeles.