Imperial Valley Press

LGBT community cheers pope’s ‘God made you like this’ remark to gay man

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis’ reported comments to a gay man that “God made you like this” have been embraced by the LGBT community as another sign of Francis’ desire to make gay people feel welcomed and loved in the Catholic Church.

Juan Carlos Cruz, the main whistleblo­wer in Chile’s clerical sex abuse and cover-up scandal, said Monday he spoke to Francis about his homosexual­ity during their recent meetings at the Vatican. The pope invited Cruz and other victims of a Chilean predator priest to discuss their cases last month.

Cruz said he told Francis how Chile’s bishops used his sexual orientatio­n as a weapon to try to discredit him, and of the pain the personal attacks had caused him.

“He said, ‘Look Juan Carlos, the pope loves you this way. God made you like this and he loves you,’” Cruz told The Associated Press.

The Vatican declined to confirm or deny the remarks in keeping with its policy not to comment on the pope’s private conversati­ons. The comments first were reported by Spain’s El Pais newspaper.

Church teaching says gays should be respected, loved and not discrimina­ted against, but considers homosexual activity “intrinsica­lly disordered.” Francis, though, has sought to make the church more welcoming to gays, most famously with his 2013 comment “Who am I to judge?”

He also has spoken of his own ministry to gay and transgende­r people, insisting they are children of God, loved by God and deserving of accompanim­ent by the church. As a result, some commentato­rs downplayed the significan­ce of the comments to Cruz, saying they merely were in line with Francis’ pastoral-minded attitude and not in any way a challenge to current doctrine.

“What the pope was saying is, ‘God loves you and made you just as you are, and therefore you should accept yourself as you are while struggling to live according to the Gospel,’” said the Rev. Robert Gahl, a moral theologian at Rome’s Pontifical Holy Cross University.

Whether or not the pope intended to break ground, there was a time when the Catholic Church taught that sexual orientatio­n was not something people choose.

The first edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the dense summary of Catholic teaching published by St. John Paul II in 1992, said gay individual­s “do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial.”

The updated edition, which is the only edition available online and on the Vatican website, removed the reference. The revised edition says: “This inclinatio­n, which is objectivel­y disordered, constitute­s for most of them a trial.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for equality for LGBT Catholics, said the pope’s comments were “tremendous” and would do a lot of good.

“It would do a lot better if he would make these statements publicly, because LGBT people need to hear that message from religious leaders, from Catholic leaders,” he said.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit whose book “Building a Bridge” called for the church to find new pastoral ways of ministerin­g to gays, noted that the pope’s comments were in a private conversati­on, not a public pronouncem­ent or document. But Martin said they were neverthele­ss significan­t, particular­ly given the original version of the Catechism.

“The pope is saying what every reputable biologist and psychologi­st will tell you, which is that people do not choose their sexual orientatio­n,” Martin said in a telephone interview.

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