Obama Neglects LGBT Issues In Chat with Pope Francis

Obama and Pope Francis

The Washington Blade is reporting that President Obama failed to raise LGBT-specific issues with Pope Francis during their meeting in the Vatican last Thursday. 

“I would say that the largest bulk of the time was discussing two central concerns of his,” Obama told reporters after the meeting. “One is the issues of the poor, the marginalized, those without opportunity and growing inequality.”

Obama said he and the pontiff discussed immigration reform and the possibility of a papal trip to the U.S. The president stressed there was also “some specific focus” during their 50 minute meeting on the Middle East – and specifically Syria, Lebanon and the fledgling peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

“The theme that stitched our conversation together was a belief that in politics and in life the quality of empathy, the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes and to care for someone even if they don’t look like you or talk like you or share your philosophy – that that’s critical,” said Obama. “It’s the lack of empathy that makes it very easy for us to plunge into wars.”

Obama said he did not discuss any specific religious exemptions relating to the Affordable Care Act, although the Vatican noted that the two discussed “questions of particular relevance for the church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection…”

Esteban Paulón, LGBT Federation of Argentina President, expressed disappointment that Obama failed to address global concerns about global LGBT inequality with Pope Francis. Before becoming the pope, Francis served as archbishop of Buenos Aires (where his record on gay rights was decidedly mixed)

“Even though we did not have high expectations, we believed that within the context of the meeting President Obama would have brought to the table his administration’s concern that it has expressed, and that we have shared, about the climate of hostilities towards lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in many parts of the world,” Paulón told the Blade on Friday. “In many of those countries this persecution happens with the support, or at the very least with the complicity and silence, of the Catholic hierarchy.”


  1. james st. james says

    I find it interesting, and satisfying, that Obama did not take the wife and kids along.

    Almost like Go to Rome, Visit Pope was an item on the Presidential Bucket List.

    Now back to the real world.

  2. JMC says

    “questions of particular relevance for the church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection…”

    So really they did speak about LGBT issues. Pope Francis just phrased “I’m pissed Catholics aren’t being given free reign to unconstitutionally sh*t all over gay people anymore” in a subtler way.

  3. Zell says

    When are we going to stop caring about what religious leaders think about anything? Religion should be kept out of public life as much as possible, and that should be the end of it. I give exactly zero craps what Pope Francis thinks of gay rights, women priests, or pretty much anything else. I just want his horrible religion out of my life as much as possible. In return, he gets to set the rules for his own cult.

    I will never understand gay people or women who criticize Catholicism for not being more inclusive. Religion is not politics, you don’t get to cry foul when religious policy doesn’t mesh with your personal philosophy. Catholicism is either true or it’s not; if you think it’s not, so much the better for you, and if you think it is, you’d better follow the tenets laid down by the Pope or you’re nothing but a heretic. Spare me the politically correct whining from gay people and women who think that they can mold a religion that is thousands of years old into something more palatable to modern senses and still be able to call themselves followers.

  4. raul415 says

    The article sounds a little whiny.

    We don’t even know what they talked about. The President just thumbnailed the conversation.

    But considering that this was the last time that they will ever meet…..

  5. Jim says

    Sounds like a giant waste of 50 minutes of the POTUS time. I do hope they were able to share a couple of Whitman-Sampler chocolates and a cup of Red Rose tea, because it sounds like everything else was utter b.s.

  6. D.B. says

    I’m not the biggest Obama supporter, but this criticism of him is kind of silly. This was a relatively brief “chat,” something akin to a vaguely political social call. Frankly if I were president, and I had just a few minutes of the Pope’s time, I seriously doubt that LGBT issues would be at the top of my list of discussion topics either.

  7. BreckRoy says

    I agree the headline and premise seem a bit sensational. It was billed as a talk about what they could do together about the very poor, income inequality, and related issues. That seems to be the thrust of the relatively short meeting and it is not unusual for leaders (of companies, communities, nations…) to partner or meet on topics of common interest. Francis is further along on gay rights than any Pope in history, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much, but it does mean he’s not Putin or Mugabe, where gay rights is something Obama simply could not ignore in any formal, state meeting. If every time two leaders mer (especially when they have less than an hour) they had to go through a laundry list of topics they have disagreement on before they could get into substantive discussion, all to not offend their contituencies back home, no successful partnerships between anyone without 100% agreement would ever come to be. I get why people wished he would have brought it up and would have thought it nice. But I get and don’t think there was anything wrong with it not coming up at all.

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