“Do you know what Tinder is?” asks Celia, a young woman who describes herself as non-binary to the Pope. “No, honey, I don’t know. Now I feel old-fashioned.” The Pope quickly laughs from her side.
Celia says that she has found a match on Tinder and that she is non-binary and Christian at the same time, which is sometimes difficult. “Do you see a place in the Church for LGBT, transgender and non-binary people?” Without hesitation, Francisco replies that God is a father who does not exclude anyone. Those who use the Bible to spread hatred against those who are not heterosexual, the Pope describes as “infiltrators, who use the Church for their own personal narrow-mindedness.”
In itself, the conversation between the Pope and non-binary youth does not contain any news, because ten years ago this Pope reached out to the LGBT community with the statement “who am I to judge?” But the conversation is part of a striking new documentary in Spanish. This is special, not because Francis is going to break with the well-known line at the theological level – he also repeats this time that women will continue to be excluded from the priesthood – but because the Pope does not shy away from any thorny issue in a group discussion with ten young people or asks prickly dodging
Also read this analysis on the ten years of Pope Francis: Create space without changing Catholic teaching
Amen: Francisco responds (Amen: Francis Responds), a documentary by Spanish directors Jordi Evole and Marius Sanchez, was shot in June 2022 in an old woolen factory in Rome. Just before Easter weekend, the documentary was put on the Disney+ streaming platform. On various news sites, statements about sex were especially highlighted. The Pope describes sex as “one of the most beautiful things that God gave to man.” Impressive, for a man who confesses to young people that he was in a relationship, but he opted for celibacy when he became a priest. He also says that “expressing oneself sexually is rich”, that “sex has its own dynamics and a reason for being” and “it is an expression of love”.
Pornography and masturbation
However, the context in which the Pope makes those statements is just as fascinating as those individual quotes. A little earlier in the group discussion, Alejandra, a young Colombian woman, introduced herself as an online sex worker. For example, the group addresses the issue of pornography and masturbation, something that the very Catholic Maria of Spain strongly protests against. The Pope decides to moderate, qualifying sex in itself as something very positive, but adding that pornography “does not help a person grow”, and compares it to drugs.
The Spanish documentalists have carefully selected the ten young people. They are between twenty and twenty-five years old and because the official language is Spanish, they come from Spain, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and the United States. There is also a Spanish-speaking young man from Senegal, Khadim, the only Muslim. The rest is a mix of very devout Catholics to atheists.
Lucía, a retired nun from Peru, says she experienced her religious initiation into the order as a form of psychological abuse. She not only disassociated herself, but she is no longer religious. She describes herself as “much calmer and also much happier.” Francis acknowledges that she experienced abuse of power at the convent, and that the best thing she can do is distance herself from such a situation. As for her faith, he says that he won’t try to change her mind. But he then adds that “even now there is someone who will guide you on your way.” De Lucía reaps a radiant smile.
right to abortion
Milagros, for her part, is a young Argentine who is very active in her parish, and at the same time a defender of the right to abortion. Why, she asks the Pope, does the Church really make women who have a miscarriage feel guilty? The Pope replies that he asks the priests to be merciful to these women and not to leave them alone. “But,” says Francisco, “that’s more than just justifying it.”
Also read: In the Netherlands, too, bishops and cardinals perpetuated abuses
Juan, a young man from Spain, finds it hypocritical that the Church so strongly defends the right to life over abortion, but still does not fight vigorously against pedophilia. Strongly emotional, Juan tells how he was abused as a child in an Opus Dei school. Visibly moved, Pope Francis lowers his gaze. The perpetrator received a very light sentence from a civil court, and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decided to archive the case. The Pope says he wants the matter reexamined and that the zero-tolerance policy he introduced has resulted in the punishment of clergy and laity and “priests in jail everywhere.” But the culture of abuse has not been eradicated, the young people argue.
They are outspoken, and Francisco certainly is. Have you ever felt alone? Of course, says the Pope, who admits that he misses his family in Argentina in the Vatican: “We were very close.” Some youth patronize him and someone mistakenly refers to him as “the pastor.” Francis doesn’t get hung up on it, as long as the conversation with the young people is about something essential. The result is an exhilarating and sometimes even exciting documentary.