Pope Francis Says The Church Should Apologize To LGBTQ People And Women

In another of the pro-social justice statements that have characterized his tenure, Pope Francis told journalists Sunday aboard a plane taking him home from Armenia that the church should apologize to LGBTQ people, women, and the poor for how it has treated people from these groups. According to the Pope, the church teaches that LGBTQ people “should not be discriminated against. They should be respected, accompanied pastorally,” and therefore Christians should seek forgiveness for failing them in this respect. He also said Catholics needs to apologize to women, the poor, and child laborers for having exploited them, and must apologize for “having blessed so many weapons” and condoning organized violence and conflict throughout history.

Throughout his time as the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has displayed more openness toward marginalized groups than his predecessors. In a speech from 2013, for instance, he said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” He once personally called a woman to help her recover from a sexual assault. He’s called for increased protections on the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous people. Earlier this year, he reached out to Muslim migrants and refugees as part of the global community by visiting them at a center for asylum seekers and washing their feet: a symbolic gesture of humility and submission.

Pope and refugees
CREDIT: Tiziana Fabi/Getty Images

But don’t expect the Pope to fully support LGBTQ people’s rights in the church anytime soon. He has not yet taken the crucial step of incorporating LGBTQ acceptance into Catholic teaching, and he’s described same-gender marriage as a development that could “disfigure God’s plan for creation.”

He’s pulled a similar “yes, but” tactic with regard to women in the church. While he did set up a commission last month to look into the possibility of setting up women as deacons, he also said women are unfit to hold the same authority as men in the church by virtue of their gender.

Pope Francis Visits The Greek Island Of Lesbos To Meet With Migrants
CREDIT: Handout/Getty Images

Despite their ambiguity, the Pope’s actions are significant — even suggesting that the church should acknowledge systematic wrongdoing against such large groups is a big step and marks the growth of LGBTQ acceptance and increased equality in organized Christianity. Last year, big-name evangelical Christian leader (and spiritual advisor to former President Bill Clinton) Tony Campolo called for full acceptance of same-gender couples and LGBTQ people in the church, drawing parallels between Biblical arguments against homosexuality and the use of scripture to oppress women and people of color.

Maybe Pope Francis’ statements can serve as jumping-off points for his successors. Whoever comes after him as Pope will hopefully expand these ideas into wholehearted acceptance and inclusivity, and lead the church and organized religion in general in a new, positive direction.