This past weekend Pope Francis made news during his recent trip to Ireland. While meeting with the country’s openly gay prime minister, he told parents not to condemn or kick out their gay kids. While that’s a great message, he also said that if parents notice their child exhibits signs of homosexuality during childhood, “there is a lot that can be done through psychiatry.” It sounds like he’s endorsing subjecting minors to so-called ex-gay conversion therapy, something that’s now illegal in 25% of the United States. If so, these Pope Francis conversion therapy comments make his initial statement much less progressive than we had first thought.
During a Q&A with journalists on his flight back to Vatican City from Ireland, the Pope said, “Don’t condemn. Dialogue. Understand, give the child space so he or she can express themselves.”
“There have always been gay people and people with homosexual tendencies,” he added. “Ignoring a child with this tendency shows a lack of motherhood and fatherhood. This child has the right to a family. And the family not throwing him out.”
He continued by saying, “Ignoring a son or daughter who has homosexual tendencies is an error of fatherhood or motherhood,” adding, “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.”
By suggesting that parents send their gay kids to psychiatric treatment, it sounds like the Pope is endorsing treatment similar to ex-gay conversion therapy (especially since psychiatrists, unlike psychologists, focus on giving people medication to change mental state).
The Catholic Church does in fact support ex-gay conversion therapy. In fact, religious conservatives in America are praising a recent report from a Catholic “medical journal” as proof that such therapy works, even though the study doesn’t prove it by a long shot.
These Pope Francis conversion therapy comments are just the latest in his history of occasionally dancing around progressivism — like when he said the Catholic Church owed the LGBTQ community an apology — but, when it actually matters, following the standard Church line.
He personally rejected France’s gay ambassador to the Vatican in 2015, supported a Slovakian referendum to keep same-sex couples from being able to marry or adopt kids, and in 2014 he invited Tony Perkins, president of anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council to open an anti-marriage equality rally.
Pope Francis also accused trans people of trying to “cancel out” the differences between male and female people, which is a bad thing, we guess?