Pope Francis doesn’t think parents should reject their kids for being gay, but he does think they might need some therapy.
The pontiff made the new comments on his flight home from the World Meeting of Families in Ireland. “There have always been gay people and people with homosexual tendencies,” he said.
Asked what he would tell parents who believe their kids are gay, Francis gave a somewhat mixed response. While he advocated against kicking kids out of the house, he also seemed to suggest that gay kids need to somehow be helped.
“I would say first of all pray, not to condemn, to dialogue, to understand, to give space to the son or the daughter,” he said. “When it shows itself from childhood, there is a lot that can be done through psychiatry, to see how things are. It is something else if it shows itself after 20 years. Ignoring a son or daughter who has homosexual tendencies is an error of fatherhood or motherhood.”
Francis did not explain exactly what he thinks psychiatry can do for gay youth, but the comment comes just weeks after the Catholic Medical Association published a study claiming that conversion therapy is effective.
It’s the latest example of Pope Francis making comments on LGBTQ issues that are seemingly not too condemning — the Church, after all, still considers homosexuality “intrinsically disordered” — but still aren’t all that supportive either.
While he still receives praise for saying, “Who am I to judge?” when asked about gay priests early in his papacy, he also recently encouraged the Church’s bishops to keep gay men from entering the priesthood. He has also described the rise of transgender equality as “ideological colonization.”
In Ireland, Francis faced a number of protests. The conference followed yet another massive bombshell about child sex abuse, which prompted several U.S. bishops to cancel their appearances. Moreover, not only does Ireland now have an openly gay taoiseach (prime minister), it legalized marriage equality for same-sex couples in 2015 and repealed its ban on abortion earlier this year.
Introducing Francis, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar lambasted the Church for its many scandals and abuses and noted how Ireland has become less religious and modernized its laws. He said that the country now has an “understanding that marriages do not always work, that women should make their own decisions, and that families come in many different, wonderful forms, including those headed by a grandparent, lone parent, or same-sex parents, or parents who are divorced.”
UPDATE: When the Vatican published Pope Francis’ widely reported response, it excised his comments about sending children to psychiatrists so as to not “change the thoughts of the Holy Father.” A Vatican spokeswoman explained, “When the pope referred to ‘psychiatry’, it is clear that he was doing it to highlight an example of ‘things that can be done’. But with that word he didn’t mean to say that it (homosexuality) was a ‘mental illness.’”
The Vatican’s response still does not clarify what “things” the Pope believes “can be done” — or should be done — to gay youth.