The Vatican hit CTRL + ALT + DELETE on comments made by the Pope earlier this week suggesting that queer children need psychological help.
Following a contentious trip to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis told reporters that “a lot… can be done through psychiatry” when asked if he had any advice for parents who believe their child may be LGBTQ.
“At what age does the trouble show itself?” he responded. “That’s important.”
“When it shows itself from childhood, there is a lot that can be done through psychiatry, to see how things are,” he said. “It is something else if it shows itself after 20 years.”
Those comments were swiftly redacted from the Holy See’s website after advocates argued the Pope was suggesting queer and trans youth be subjected to conversion therapy. That term refers to the widely discredited practice of seeking to “cure” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth.
“[Pope Francis] is basically saying that young gay people can be changed, which is archaic and has been refuted numerous times,” Amnesty International Ireland Executive director Colm O’Gorman told The Times.
A spokesperson for the Vatican clarified the Pope was not advocating for conversion therapy.
“When the pope referred to ‘psychiatry,’ it is clear that he was doing it to highlight an example of ‘things that can be done,’” an unnamed official said in a statement to the Agence France Presse. “But with that word, he didn’t mean to say that [homosexuality] was a ‘mental illness.’”
The spokesperson added that the Pope’s word choice had not been “precise” in appearing to conflate the two.
Church officials amended the comments to reflect what Pope Francis intended to say. When Vatican News reported on the meeting with press, the news agency included separate remarks in which the Pope advised parents not to “condemn” their LGBTQ offspring. Parents should “dialogue” and “make room” for their children, he added.
The mixed message on LGBTQ rights — a fixture of Francis’ tenure in the papacy — was far from the first controversy arising from the Pope’s trip to Ireland.
Advocacy groups claimed they were prevented from tabling at the triennial World Meeting of Families, which was held between Aug. 21 and 26. Meanwhile, former Vatican representative Carlo Maria Viganò accused Pope Francis of covering up sexual abuse within the church in an open letter calling on him to resign.
“There can only be zero tolerance for those who abuse innocent children or who facilitate that abuse,” claimed openly gay Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in a televised speech following the scandal.
Local reports noted that turnout for Pope Francis’ visit dropped dramatically from Pope John Paul II’s visit to the country in 1979.
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