Our Faith is constantly tested everyday.
However, it is important to separate our beliefs from our treatment of people.
This is where Pope Francis's welcoming of transgender people and others of the LGBTQ+ community comes into play.
On Wednesday 10 August, Pope Francis met with transgenders who have found shelter in a local parish community on the outskirts of Rome called Blessed Immaculate Virgin.
Pope Francis has met with this community now at least four times.
The Parish provides sanctuary for immigrants and refugees, as well as sanctuary to the poor too via CARITAS and the Community of St. Egidio and has been engaged in these efforts for many years now.
Yet, it is its sanctuary to the LGBTQ+ community that has become controversial.
Despite this controversey, Pope Francis praised this initiative and initiatives like it such as Outreach done by Jesuits in the USA for their ministry to LGBTQ+ Catholics and their families. Pope Francis answered a question in a letter he received from the Outreach that "God is Father and He does not disown any of his children."
He further continued in another question that asked: "What do you say to an LGBT Catholic who has experienced rejection from the church?" In his answer, he made sure to delineate the persons from the Church by replying: "I would have them recognize it not as the “rejection of the church,” but instead “of people in the church.” The church is mother and calls together all of her children. Take for example the parable of those invited to the feast: “the just, the sinners, the rich and the poor, etc.” A “selective” church, one of “pure blood,” is not the Holy Mother Church, but rather a sect."
In these two answers, Pope Francis hit on three key components to his view on ministering to the transgender community.
One, God is the Father of our family, and just like if one of our brothers or sisters or parents or children became full of sin, we would still love them and welcome them in hopes that they would return to their Christian ways, that we also must do the same for our wider family in our Church and the world. We should also wish well for them. And, we should provide for them because we should care for them.
Two, there is the Church, and there are people in the Church. Just because Church members do or say something does not mean that is the Church's actual beliefs. This is a concept former US President Ronald Reagan touched upon when he stated: "We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions." In other words, do not blame the Church for bad treatment as the Church itself does not advocate for that. Rather, individuals who did not follow Church teachings might have sinned against you.
Three, the just, the sinners, the rich, and the poor are called to the wedding feast that is Heaven and we must answer this call and go. In other words, we are all called and the Church is there to help us all answer this call and guide us to go.
These three points are important because they describe Pope Francis's view on how to treat those who sin within our Church such as transgenders. In fact, one can see how our Church is supposed to treat those of other religions with grace, despite their lack of following our Faith. Likewise, sometimes we forget to extend these graces to people in the LGBTQ+ community despite their short falls as well.
But, just as us providing shelter to Jews or Muslims does not mean we no longer believe in our Catholic beliefs and have converted to Judaism or Islam, likewise, our sheltering of LGBTQ+ people does not mean we all of a sudden support all of their theories or movements.
Pope Francis has been very clear that he and our Church is against these modern gender theories, homosexuality, and non-traditional marriage in our Church many times, and that our Church's teachings cannot change.
According to Pope Francis, "biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated". He has called the teaching of gender theory "ideological colonization". He has further written that "the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over Creation…[A]ppreciation of our body as male or female is also necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves…"In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. Only by losing the fear of being different, can we be freed of self-centeredness and self-absorption. Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it."
We must remember Pope Francis's clarification on how the Church cannot bless sin, but can bless a sinful person to understand the treatment of transgenders by Pope Francis in the example on Wednesday.
For Pope Francis, we must accept the person and continue to pursue their spiritual well-being as Jesus would, while also pushing back against their sinful ways to guide them to a more Holy life. We must "Welcome the person, study the situation, accompany the person and integrate him or her into the life of the community."
But, make no mistake, this is a problem, which is best solved by the "Mercy of God" according to Pope Francis and our Church: "I want to be clear. [LGBTQ+] is a moral problem. It is a problem. A human problem. And it must be resolved the best one can—always with the mercy of God, with the truth" and "always with an open heart."
Currently, it may seem difficult to accept those that may appear to be our enemies in a culture war-like atmosphere, but in reality, we must rise above the squabbles of war and politics and seek a life of service to others.