Pope Francis reportedly met with a transgender man and his fiancée over the weekend. The private audience was held after the man wrote a letter to the pontiff detailing how his parish in Spain had shunned him.
In the letter, Diego Neria Lejárraga told Pope Francis how his church had rejected him following his gender-reassignment surgery, with the parish priest calling him “the devil’s daughter.” On Christmas Eve, Lejárraga received a phone call from the Vatican inviting him to the pope’s residence a month later.
“After hearing him on many occasions, I felt that he would listen to me,” Lejárraga told Hoy in an interview published Sunday. According to the newspaper, Francis embraced Lejárraga, and he now feels at peace.
“For the pope to meet with a transgender man about to be married, and for that meeting to result in this man feeling more hopeful about his place in the church, shows a concern for those at the very margins of our church,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the LGBT Catholic organization Dignity USA, told the Washington Blade.
Despite Pope Francis’ compassionate gestures toward the LGBT community, he has not changed what's on the books. Catholic catechism calls homosexual acts “intrinsically disordered" and “contrary to natural law,” and adds that such acts do not “proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.” A synod of bishops held in October on the family reiterated the church’s stance that its definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.
“One thing Pope Francis has repeatedly said is that he is not changing Church teaching or doctrine,” James Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College, told IBTimes in an earlier interview.
The Vatican has not commented on the meeting between Francis and Lejárraga, which some see as evidence of the church’s reluctance to accept its LGBT followers.
"The Vatican's reluctance to verify the meeting is another indication of why I don't think their attitude can yet be called 'acceptance,'" Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for LGBT Catholics, told the Huffington Post.
DeBernardo adds that the meeting highlights how the pontiff “values discussion.” He notes, "I think that his meeting with the transgender man was a gesture not only of pastoral care, but of genuine interest in learning about the transgender experience from a firsthand source."