Pope Francis on Friday compared politicians who use hate speech against LGBTQ people and other minority groups to Adolf Hitler.
“It is not coincidental that at times there is a resurgence of symbols typical of Nazism,” said Francis during an international law conference, according to Reuters. “And I must confess to you that when I hear a speech (by) someone responsible for order or for a government, I think of speeches by Hitler in 1934, 1936,”
“With the persecution of Jews, Gypsies and people with homosexual tendencies, today these actions are typical (and) represent ‘par excellence’ a culture of waste and hate,” added Francis. “That is what was done in those days and today it is happening again.”
Francis made his comments against the backdrop of continued government-sponsored persecution, violence and hate speech based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity in Uganda and dozens of other countries around the world. The Vatican’s tone towards homosexuality and other LGBTQ-specific issues has moderated since Francis assumed the papacy in 2013, but activists have pointed out to the Washington Blade that church teachings on them have not changed.
“It is very important that Pope Francis is speaking out against the resurgence of hate speech that is occurring in many countries, and recognizes that this speech endangers the lives of minorities, including LGBTQ people,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a group of LGBTQ Catholics, told the Blade on Friday in a statement. “I hope that leaders and individuals around the world understand why the Pope is speaking out against this trend, and take stock of their role in creating climates that can lead to violence.”
Duddy-Burke added she hopes “his words are also understood to be applicable within the Church, and that Catholic leaders who say hateful, disparaging and dehumanizing things or act to limit the human rights of LGBTQ people and others immediately change their ways.”
“Ultimately, this kind of statement must lead to a rejection of church teachings that demonize and dehumanize LGBTQ people,” Duddy-Burke told the Blade. “Using words like ‘evil’ or ‘disordered’ when speaking about us must end.”
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based group that ministers to LGBTQ Catholics, in a statement described Francis’ statement as a “long time coming.”
“This simple message will save lives, protect people from harm, help keep families together and work towards eradicating hateful attitudes,” said DeBernardo. “When the Pope speaks, people listen — regardless of faith or political leanings.”
“It is especially important to hear these words from the Pope Francis’ mouth because much of the persecution against LGBTQ people occurs in nations with a strong Catholic population, often with the approval of local Catholic bishops,” added DeBernardo.