A transcript of Pope Francis’s Sept. 12 meeting in Slovakia with 53 Jesuit priests at the nunciature in Bratislava was released on Sept. 21. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., the editor in chief of the Jesuit magazine “La Civiltà Cattolica,” was present at the meeting and published the full transcript of the conversation.
The conversation was long and covered a range of topics, which included comments on gay and trans people and even referenced Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov,” in which the inquisitor approaches Christ and “reproaches Jesus for having given us freedom: a bit of bread would have been enough and nothing more.”
The discourse began with a somewhat argumentative tone. When one Jesuit asked Pope Francis “How are you?” referencing the Pope’s recent illness, Francis replied, “Still alive, even though some people wanted me to die.”
Francis addressed his decision to not allow the Mass to be said in Latin, referring to it as “going backwards, not forwards.” He said priests must learn the languages of their congregations and that Latin is not one of those. “It frightens us to celebrate [Mass] before the people of God who look us in the face and tell us the truth. It frightens us to go forward in pastoral experiences.”
Another Jesuit asked the pope about his frequent references to “ideological colonization,” a term the pope has often tied to the idea that gender is separate from biological sex.
“Ideology always has a diabolical appeal, as you say, because it is not embodied,” the pope said. “The ‘gender’ ideology of which you speak is dangerous, yes. As I understand it, it is so because it is abstract with respect to the concrete life of a person, as if a person could decide abstractly at will if and when to be a man or a woman. Abstraction is always a problem for me.”
The pope emphasized: “This has nothing to do with the homosexual issue, though. If there is a homosexual couple, we can do pastoral work with them, move forward in our encounter with Christ.”
Francis concluded, “When I talk about ideology, I’m talking about the idea, the abstraction in which everything is possible, not about the concrete life of people and their real situation.”
When asked, “How do you deal with people who look at you with suspicion?” Pope Francis replied, “I go ahead, not because I want to start a revolution. I do what I feel I must do. It takes a lot of patience, prayer and a lot of charity.”
In a separate event — a Sept. 15 press briefing on about his stance on same-sex marriages — Pope Francis said, “I have spoken clearly about this, no? Marriage is a sacrament. The church doesn’t have the power to change sacraments. It’s as our Lord established.”
Francis said that civil unions and other laws that “try to help the situation” for LGBTQ+ people are important. He asserted, however, that legal recognition for same-sex couples should not impose “things that by nature do not function in the church.”
“If they want to spend their lives together, a homosexual couple, nations have the possibility civilly to support them, to give them safety with regards to inheritance and health,” he said.
While maintaining that “marriage is marriage,” Francis concluded that he does not advocate for “condemning” individuals because of their sexual orientation. He stated that gay and lesbian people are “our brothers and sisters and we need to be close to them.”
Ukrainian March for Equality in Kyiv
An estimated 7,000 people gathered in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Sept. 19 for the annual March for Equality to support the rights of the country’s LGBT community.
Carrying rainbow flags and banners that read “Fight for rights!” marchers stated eight demands for Ukrainian authorities, including the legalization of civil partnerships for LGBT people and the creation of laws against LGBT hate crimes.
“We’ve grown tired of waiting for change and enduring systematic intimidation, pressure, disruption of peaceful events, attacks on activists and the LGBT community,” the marchers said in a statement. “We demand changes here and now, as we want to live freely in our own country.”
The march was guarded by police, who sought to prevent clashes with far-right groups that attempt to disrupt the event every year. Human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova urged radical groups to refrain from violence.
“We’re different, but we’re equal,” Denisova said. “Ukraine’s constitution has declared all people equal in their rights from birth, regardless of any characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Ukraine repealed criminal liability for homosexuality in 1991. In 2015, Ukraine’s labor laws were amended to ban discrimination of LGBT people in the workplace.
Conservative groups in Ukraine oppose LGBT rights and members of far-right organizations regularly attack groups and events linked to the LGBT community, as PGN has previously reported. Several hundred activists opposing the march held their own rally in a park in Kyiv.
Marriage equality on the ballot in Switzerland
Swiss voters will decide on Sept. 26 whether to allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. A rancorous campaign for marriage equality has gone on for weeks in Switzerland, which is one of the last Western European countries to still ban same-sex marriage.
The federal government and parliament approved opening civil marriage to same-sex couples, but right-wing and religious opponents forced a referendum on the issue under Switzerland’s system of “direct democracy.”
During the campaign, opponents of the reform used images of crying babies to suggest that gay and lesbian couples are unfit. Supporters waved “Yes, I do” rainbow flags in the Zurich and Geneva pride parades.
The share of voters set to approve same-sex marriage fell to 63% from 69% in the latest poll by gfs.bern for broadcaster SRG.
In Switzerland, same-sex couples received the right to enter into civil partnerships in 2007 and the right to adopt children parented by their partner in 2018. Under the amended law, same-sex couples would be allowed to adopt children unrelated to them.
Married lesbian couples would also be allowed to have children through sperm donation, currently legal only for married heterosexual couples. Under the law, both women would be recognized as the child’s official parents from birth.
The proposed legal change would also open an easier path to citizenship for the foreign spouse of a Swiss citizen.