Pope Francis is one of the most interesting modern popes. He’s called for social justice, and in an interview yesterday, he may have just shaken up Catholic doctrine by saying that Hell doesn’t exist. Instead, the souls of sinners simply disappear, he says. It’s a bombastic statement from the Pope, of all people, though it matches what many would call a more lenient Pope Francis LGBT record. After all, The Advocate named Pope Francis as its “Person of the Year” in 2013. But what does that LGBT record really look like, and is Pope Francis really as progressive as he gets credit for?
Pope Francis on Hell
First let’s explore his statement about Hell. When asked about what happens to souls after we die, the Pope said “good souls” who seek repentance from God would receive it. When asked about the “bad souls,” he explained, “They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”
Don’t assume that’s official doctrine just yet, though, as the Vatican said the article was not a “faithful transcription.” They also accused the author of the original interview, Eugenio Scalfari, of twisting Pope Francis’s words before.
The Pope Francis LGBT Record: The Positives
While we’ve always been down with the social justice record of Pope Francis — stuff like fighting for the poor, calling out Donald Trump and urging humans to embrace a green agenda — his LGBTQ record is a bit more complicated. First, let’s take a look at the good.
Last year the Church welcomed Luxembourg’s openly gay Prime Minister and his husband to the Vatican. But, let’s be honest, that was probably more politics than anything else, especially given there were still loads of photo-ops with anti-gay Archbishops.
In 2016, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church owed LGBT people an apology:
I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally. The Church must ask forgiveness for not behaving many times — when I say the Church, I mean Christians! The Church is holy, we are sinners!
The Pope Francis LGBT Record: The Negatives
Unfortunately, when it comes to hurting the queer community, Pope Francis has done much more than he’s done to help us. Remember that gay prime minister? Well, Pope Francis hasn’t always embraced LGBT politicians. He personally rejected France’s gay ambassador to the Vatican in 2015.
He also supported a Slovakian referendum that would keep same-sex couples in that country from being able to get married or adopt children. (Because it’s better for orphaned kids to have no parents than gay ones, apparently.)
Pope Francis doesn’t like same-sex marriage either. In 2014, he opened an anti-marriage equality conference … which he invited Tony Perkins to. Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council, which has been designated an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Perkins has also angered the Jewish Anti-Defamation League for comparing gay rights to the Holocaust. So, you know, definitely a guy you want to be seen with.
The Pope also doesn’t want to teach kids about gay or trans people in history, even if their claim to fame has nothing to do with being LGBT.
As for transgender people, Pope Francis really doesn’t like them either, having repeatedly condemned the trans community. Last October he attacked the trans community for trying to “cancel out” differences between the sexes and promoting the “utopia of the neutral.”
When it comes down to it, Pope Francis isn’t the friend to the queer community some like to pretend he is.