Pope Francis’ CBS Interview Confirms Church’s Unwillingness to Effectively Address Equality Issues

Pope Francis’ CBS Interview Confirms Church’s Unwillingness to Effectively Address Equality Issues

May 22, 2024. In a far-ranging interview with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, Pope Francis addressed issues as varied as wars raging across the world to climate change. The conversation also touched on the perennial Catholic hot buttons of the place of gay and transgender people, women’s roles, and sexual abuse. 

DignityUSA found the Pope’s response to questions about the recent document allowing the blessing of people in same-sex relationships disappointing. When O’Donnell asked about blessings for same-sex couples, Pope Francis said, “No. What I allowed was not to bless the union. That is not, that is not the sacrament. I cannot. The Lord made it that way. But to bless each person, yes.”

“This ongoing attempt to separate the individuals from their loving, committed relationship when same-sex couples seek blessings from priests is simply absurd,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA Executive Director. “The love and commitment of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are part of our essence. When we commit to another person, we become as much a unit as people of different genders who marry. The love and commitment are equal. Church officials need to recognize that, as many, many Catholics have already done. Continuing to treat us differently from other couples is pastorally harmful and needs to end.”

The Pope’s interactions with transgender individuals were noted in the interview, but not addressed in depth. The Pope said that the Church should be welcoming of everyone. DignityUSA agrees with this and urges that steps to make this feasible be a priority. For example, a welcoming church must agree to respect transgender and nonbinary people’s use of names and pronouns that align with their gender identity, ensure safe access to facilities, and work to make appropriate medical and social supports available. We remain available to help address these needs.

It was also deeply disappointing to hear Pope Francis reject the possibility of women being deacons or members of the clergy. When asked about this, he replied, “No.” He added, “If it is deacons with Holy Orders, no. But women have always had, I would say, the function of deaconesses without being deacons, right? Women are of great service as women, not as ministers…within the Holy Orders.”

To recognize that women are doing the same work as deacons, and other church ministers, while continuing to deny them ordination, which is open to males doing the same work, is simply perpetuating a system of inequity. DignityUSA and millions of other Catholics have long benefited from the ministry of women called to vocations within the Church. We believe that ordination and official ministry should be open to all who have such a call, regardless of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or relational or marital status. 

“Unfortunately, this interview reinforced the reality that many Catholic leaders, including Pope Francis, are still unwilling or unable to treat all individuals as truly equal, as we believe we all are in the eyes of God,” said Duddy-Burke. “We urge people who feel hurt and disappointed by this to seek out organizations and communities that are living these beliefs. There are many Catholic groups that practice our faith more inclusively, work to challenge unjust structures, and strive to be in dialogue with church leaders on these critical issues. We welcome others to join us.”