In the past, I cautioned LGBTQ Christians, especially Catholics, not to expect too much from the nice man wearing white now living in the Vatican. I also said his comments about not judging sinners, specifically LGBTQ children of God, though unintentional, were a form of spiritual abuse.
Sadly, Pope Francis, a well-meaning man attempting to instill an arrogant, monolithic organization with greater kindness, inclusion and compassion, has again expressed views that are spiritually abusive to same-gender families.
In April, Pope Francis told the International Catholic Child Bureau that same-gender parents are not fit to raise children. The remarks were published in the Vatican Information Service. He said, in part, “it is necessary to emphasise the right of children to grow up within a family, with a father and a mother able to create a suitable environment for their development and emotional maturity. Continuing to mature in the relationship, in the complementarity of the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother, and thus preparing the way for emotional maturity.”
The comments are not based on science. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “Current research shows that children with gay and lesbian parents do not differ from children with heterosexual parents in their emotional development or in their relationships with peers and adults. It is important for parents to understand that it is the quality of the parent/child relationship and not the parent’s sexual orientation that has an effect on a child’s development.” This is one of many favorable studies regarding LGBTQ parents.
The Pope also told his audience, “I would like to express my refusal of any type of educational experimentation on children. One does not experiment on children and young people. They are not guinea pigs!”
Ironically, Catholic schools in the United States have unenrolled children of same-gender parents. In addition, though not familiar with adoption laws in each state, I’m aware of one very red state where the parent(s) giving up a baby for adoption review portfolios of potential parents. The mother and father, if he’s available, determine whether a gay or straight couple will be given the baby or child. Despite all the talk about children’s rights, little attention is given to what many credible studies say about how children benefit from same-gender parents, nor is there any deference given to the heart-wrenching choice parents make in giving up a child to another couple.
Francis emphasized protecting the “anthropological formation” of children. In two thousand years since the birth of Jesus, many things have changed anthropologically and have impacted families, such as technology, roads and highways, and the options birth-mothers have in choosing who raises their children after reviewing carefully pre-screened prospective parents.
It’s important to remember, especially for LGBTQ Catholics who may be hurt or disappointed by the Pope’s latest remarks, that he is a person, though good-intentioned, who remains a product of his times. Any individual, no matter their popularity, lofty title or many followers, can be wrong. History has many examples of it.
The Pope’s latest remarks again underscore the need to distinguish personal faith and institutional religion. His comments should remind LGBTQ people of faith why each answers to the Creator (not a leader of a religion), one’s conscience (facing yourself in the mirror everyday), and your partner, or spouse with whom you raise children as a larger family unit.
*Paul P. Jesep is an author and founder of CorporateChaplaincy.biz, a firm committed to the spiritual wellness of professionals. He also is author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically.”