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Pope Francis asperges holy water as he celebrates a Pentecost mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Sunday, May 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

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.

Official church teaching calls for gay men and lesbians to be respected and loved, 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.

The Vatican declined to confirm or deny the remarks in keeping with its policy not to comment on the pope's private conversations.

As a result, some sought to downplay the significance of the comments as merely being in line with Francis' pastoral-minded attitude.

In addition, there was a time not so long ago when the Catholic Church officially taught that sexual orientation was not something people choose, the implication being it was how God made them.

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, was revised to remove the reference to homosexuality not being a choice. 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 citing the original version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Martin said they were nevertheless significant.

"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.

A great failing of the church, he said, is that many Catholics have been reluctant to say so, which then "makes people feel guilty about something they have no control over."

Martin's book is being published this week in Italian, with a preface by the Francis-appointed bishop of Bologna, Monsignor Matteo Zuppi, a sign that the message of acceptance is being embraced even in traditionally conservative Italy.

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Patty Bennett
6 years ago

I do not CHOOSE to be diabetic. However, I do have some control over it. It is also an objective disorder. My body does not produce sufficient insulin. Knowing that this is a problem for me, I avoid sweets, I exercise, and take good care of my health.
If I were to simply engage in a pity-party, proclaiming that "God made me diabetic, and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it" and ignore the reasonable way of eating and taking care of my health, it would only do me harm.
The same is true of those afflicted with sexual temptations. If they pretend that it isn't a problem, they will be unable to respond in the most healthy way. Our church leaders need to be able to speak the truth in love. When we really love and respect people, we WANT them to live the way God intends; it's what is BEST for them--and for each of us.

JR Cosgrove
6 years ago

Maybe a more appropriate comment by the Pope would have been

"God allowed it to happen."

Just as God allows many things to happen to people.

Jaroslav Lunda
6 years ago

Nice remark. God does not make us slaves of illness, weakness, created thinks or even death. Quite contrary - He even send us His beloved Son to cure us.
Another thing I wonder: there are several (four) articles concerning these marginal topic on the America homepage right now...

Dolores Pap
6 years ago

You can hardly compare an illness, such as diabetes, with a person who was born gay or transgendered. Does being diabetic expose you to scorn, humiliation, censure ? Does being diabetic cuts you off from what every human being needs- the ability to love another human being to the fullest, without censure? I think not..

Philip Fabiano
6 years ago

Oh Ms. Bennett, as the Sisters would say "Shame the devil and tell the truth." You think homosexuality is an illness like diabetes, don't you?

Lee Anne Leland
6 years ago

Perhaps the LGB community is cheering. But to him the T's are comparable to nuclear weapons. He has no use for us and we none for him

Tim O'Leary
6 years ago

Lee Anne - You are confirming why the LGBT grouping cannot hold as a unit. They are inherently in conflict from a philosophical, theological and moral point of view. God indeed made us as we are, with all our strengths and weaknesses, including our need for healing and salvation.

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