According to the Spanish newspaper Hoy, Pope Francis over the weekend granted a private audience to a transgendered man and his fiancee. The audience occurred after the Holy Father received a letter from Diego Neria Lejárraga that said he was marginalized in his parish community after going through a sex “reassignment” surgery. Pope Francis responded by calling Neria on Christmas Eve and they met privately this month.
Lejárraga said the Holy Father called him personally on the December 8 and said that he had received his letter and that he would like to call back to set a time to meet personally. The man says Pope Francis then called him back personally on Christmas Eve and asked to meet in Rome.
“The first call was already much more than I expected; after the second I still did not believe what was happening to me, because I know that my case is nothing, there are so many people suffering in this world who do not deserve the attention of the Pope.” said Lejárraga in a translation
Lejárraga said that after the meeting Pope Francis and his official residence, he embraced him. He says he is now at peace.
While the content of the private audience has not been made public, LGBT “rights” advocates have heralded the meeting as a “very significant event” and an example of the “the kind of pastoral care and inclusion of the margins we know the church is capable of.”
Within the richness of Church teaching is a distinction between persons and actions. The Catholic Church believes that each person is made in the image and likeness of God, deserving of being treated with respect and dignity. This is true whether a person identifies as straight, homosexual, transgender or any other sort of gender expression.
However, the Church also teaches that we were created male and female. The Catechism says, “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life” (2333). Additionally, surgery that purposefully destroys parts of one’s anatomy (as transgender surgery does) is a form of self-mutilation.
This meeting and care towards this man is very much in line with Church teaching on the care of homosexual and transgendered persons. Pope Francis predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his letter “On The Pastoral Care Of Homosexual Persons“:
“The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a “heterosexual” or a “homosexual” and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.”