ROME – A Chilean survivor of clerical sex abuse said that Pope Francis told him in a private meeting this month that God had made him gay and that both God and the pontiff loved him that way, a remarkable expression of inclusion for the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
“He said to me, ‘Juan Carlos, that’s not a problem,’ ” said Juan Carlos Cruz, the abuse survivor, describing having told the pope he was gay in a long meeting in the Vatican. “You have to be happy with who you are. God made you this way and loves you this way, and the pope loves you this way.”
The Vatican declined to comment on the pope’s private remarks.
Cruz had already said that Francis had apologized in the meeting for the large-scale sexual abuse scandal involving Chilean clergy members, but over the weekend, he also told the Spanish newspaper El País about the pope’s remarks about his homosexuality. In a separate interview Sunday night, Cruz, through tears, explained that he had told Francis in their nearly three-hour private meeting that he had maintained his Catholic faith even though Chilean bishops had apparently told the pope that he had left the church “for a life of perversion.”
In July 2013, the pope responded to questions about a supposed “gay lobby” in the Vatican by saying “Who am I to judge,” a remark that caused celebration among liberals and consternation among conservatives. His reported remarks to Cruz added to the debate over whether Francis believes homosexuality is a choice.
Vatican officials, however, cautioned against interpreting the pontiff’s pastoral outreach as a definitive ruling on the nature-versus-nurture question or as a change in church teaching.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that people with “homosexual tendencies” “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” but it also calls a “deep-seated” homosexual inclination and its acts “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to the natural law.”
The pope’s remarks, if accurate, would reinforce his vision of inclusion, accompaniment and mercy. It is an emphasis that is increasingly evident throughout a church hierarchy that he is reshaping.
The pope has been increasingly assertive over the spring, five years into his papacy, especially after he seemed hobbled by missteps on the Chilean sexual abuse scandal.
He announced Saturday that Óscar Romero, a Salvadoran bishop shot and killed by right-wing forces for preaching against military oppression and American meddling, would be canonized in October.
The next day, he reshaped the College of Cardinals, which will choose his successor. He surprisingly named 14 new cardinals, 11 of whom are under 80 and thus able to vote in the next conclave.