January 25, 2015 at 3:56 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Transgender man has private audience with Pope Francis

Catholic, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis on Saturday met with a transgender man from Spain during a private audience at the Vatican. (Photo by Jeon Han; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A transgender man from Spain had a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday.

Hoy, a newspaper in the Extremadura region of Spain, reported that Diego Neria Lejárraga and his fiancée had a private audience with the pontiff that took place at his official residence.

Neria told Francis in a letter that some of his fellow parishioners at the church he attends in the Spanish city of Plasencia rejected him after he underwent sex-reassignment surgery. He said a priest even called him “the devil’s daughter.”

Francis called Neria on Christmas Eve after receiving his letter.

The private audience took place a month later.

“After hearing him on many occasions, I felt that he would listen to me,” Neria told Hoy in an interview the newspaper published on Sunday.

The meeting took place against the backdrop of what many LGBT Catholics have described as the Vatican’s more moderate tone on marriage rights for same-sex couples and other issues since Francis became pope nearly two years ago.

Francis — the former archbishop of Buenos Aires — in July 2013 told reporters who asked him about the reported homosexuality of a man he appointed to oversee the Vatican bank that gay men and lesbians should not be judged or marginalized. An Italian Jesuit magazine a few months later published an interview with the Argentine-born pontiff during which he said the church has grown “obsessed” with gay marriage, abortion and contraception.

Francis last November demoted an American cardinal who is an outspoken critic of marriage rights for same-sex couples and abortion.

LGBT rights advocates earlier this month criticized the pontiff over comments he made during his trip to the Philippines that appeared to suggest same-sex marriage threatens the family.

Francis in 2010 described Argentina’s same-sex marriage bill as “the work of the devil” before President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it into law. Catholic bishops who attended a meeting on the family at the Vatican last October released a document that said gay unions are not “remotely analogous” to “God’s plan for marriage and the family.”

Papal audience ‘a piece of good news’

José María Núñez Blanco, president of Fundación Triángulo, a Spanish advocacy group, on Sunday in a statement criticized the Vatican’s positions on LGBT-specific issues while describing Francis’ meeting with Neria as “a piece of good news.”

“It is absolutely absurd that a believer is prevented from living their religious beliefs,” said Núñez. “Some proclaim the religion of love and dedicate themselves to spreading hate. Hopefully the Catholic Church ceases to be a machine of hate and suffering for the good of believers and non-believers.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, a group for LGBT Catholics, noted to the Washington Blade on Sunday that many high-level Catholic officials in Europe have “spoken very harshly” against trans people.

Duddy-Burke nevertheless described Francis’ meeting with Neria as “a very significant event.”

“For the pope to meet with a transgender man about to be married, and for that meeting to result in this man feeling more hopeful about his place in the Church, shows a concern for those at the very margins of our church,” Duddy-Burke told the Blade. “I hope the pope listened carefully to this man’s experience, and will speak about what he heard.”

Human Rights Campaign Director of Latino and Catholic Initiatives Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera described the meeting to the Blade as an “extraordinary event.”

“This is the kind of pastoral care and inclusion of the margins we know the church is capable of,” she said.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

22 Comments
  • He is the king of lies, he will say anything to look like the new face of Catholicism, more accepting of the LGBT community, but he is an ultra-conservative pope masked by marketing.

  • He's the head of an ecclesiastical sacerdotal monarchy and you expect there to not be politics? ;-) LOL

  • More PR lies and deceptions from a hate mongering pope.
    ˙
    Like his back-of-the-plane, throw-'em-a-bone, "Who am I to judge?" remark, this is more of the same.
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    It's an habitual pattern, now. Hell, we could've predicted something like this.
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    After this ill papa demonized LGBT families by the MILLIONS a few weeks ago, he uses ONE transgender to masquerade his underlying hate– without needing to publicly show a whit of concern for LGBT human rights protections.
    ˙

  • Yep. Yep. Yep. Almost as bad are the LGBT "activists" who aid and abet papal lies with the help of Dignity and HRC.

  • The "church" of Vatican II is not the Catholic Church.

  • This pope has done more to support the LGBT community than any other pope. I see it as his method of moving the church forward gently rather than all at once. Let's hope the church catches up with a lot of its members, some of whom are keeping quiet.

  • Funny how you guys' obsess over the occasion of the audience itself yet don't even mention a word of what Pope Francis ACTUALLY said during the audience. I guarantee you it wasn't, "You are perfect the way you are and sexual reassignment surgery is perfectly ok." Church Doctrine isn't going to change on ANYTHING, regardless of the deceptively hopeful tone you libtards keep taking.

  • "This pope has done more to support the LGBT community than any other pope."
    -Eric
    ********************
    Yes, Eric, that's true, given that past popes have only repeatedly demonized us.
    ˙
    This ill papa has at least thrown us a few bones, along with demonizing LGBT families and their kids to millions more. We ought do a four-point grovel in appreciation for his bone gifts, huh?

  • I notice that YOU do not mention a word of what Francis actually said either. Because, of course neither you, nor the "you guys" to whom you are referring, know what was said in that audience.

    However, what we DO know, by your gratuitous and unchristian use of the word "libtard", is that you are a hatemongering fascist scumbag, an embarrassment to REAL Christians and to Christ's teachings.

  • Go read Leviticus 20:13 and then finish what you were telling me about "REAL Christians and Christ's teachings."

  • Go read Leviticus 20:13 and then finish what you were telling me about "REAL Christians and Christ's teachings."

  • So much for "Gender ideology is demonic."

    If this audience with the degenerate "transgender" person is true, it's a disgrace to the Church as a whole.

    I'm hoping, however, that what he's actually doing is counselling so-called "transgender" people to accept the sex they were given by the Creator and try to improve their mental illness for their own good.

  • If Pope Francis was so hateful as some have suggested why would he meet with transgendered man in the first place ? I know that the Catholic Church is slow to change but I still believe that Christ and his unconditional love and compassion will in the end bring us all to him .

  • You are all screwed up if you have to depend on a book, a religion, or a pope to tell you what is right or wrong. What it means is that you have not matured to a point of making your own decisions about life and what human really means.

  • Mr SwaugMaster whatever your name is does this apply to the thousands of priest who molest little altar boys? HUH what's their excuse? Hypocritical bastard! Since you're quoting Lev 20:13

  • Thousands? Where did you get that number? Oh that's right, you pulled it out of your ass. The number of priests who are pedophiles is extremely small and such priests, when discovered, are promptly defrocked and turned over to the police. Benedict was better than Francis in that area, he defrocked over 500 priests over the course of several months. A hypocrite, me? You act like I support pedophiles. I vehemently oppose any type of sexual deviant acting out on their impulses, including but not limited to: Pedophiles, Zoophiles, Homosexuals, Bisexuals, Transgenders and Pansexuals. And, just to prove I don't discriminate, I also oppose straight people being sexually promiscuous. So, shove that up your fat, black ass! Stupid coon… It's a wonder that a welfare-munching, overweight chimp like yourself even knows how to type. You probably asked a friend to do it for you so he could translate your heavily ghetto-laden debauchery of English into a somewhat legible form.

  • AND you are an ignorant…el que este libre de pecado, que tire la primera piedra.

  • Efrem-No one denys that any priest that has molested a child should be imprisoned. However, the majority of priests do not molest children. Secondly, the actions of a few hypocrites do not mean that the doctrines of the faith are not true. It just means that everyone has a free will to choose. But, you do not want to hear that because you do not want to be accountable according to the high standards of Christianity. The actions of an immoral priest do not make me or any good priest a hypocrite. This is common sense 101.

  • Mr. Simon, If you do not want to be referred to as Libtard than do not act like one. If a man rapes a woman, he is called a rapist. If he does not want to be called a rapist, then he should not act like one. In Scripture, Jesus referred to the 'stupid man' who does not build his house on a strong foundation. So, I think it is obvious that God does not mind calling a spade a spade. Would you consider it uncharitable to call someone who has stolen a 'thief'? If so, that just shows that you need to get over your tender sensibilities and base use your God given reason instead of allowing your feelings, which have no basis for truth, to rule over you. The fact is that most liberals do not use their God given reason, they just act on their feelings and I have no respect for that.

  • Mr. Simon, If you do not want to be referred to as Libtard than do not act like one. If a man rapes a woman, he is called a rapist. If he does not want to be called a rapist, then he should not act like one. In Scripture, Jesus referred to the 'stupid man' who does not build his house on a strong foundation. So, I think it is obvious that God does not mind calling a spade a spade. Would you consider it uncharitable to call someone who has stolen a 'thief'? If so, that just shows that you need to get over your tender sensibilities and base use your God given reason instead of allowing your feelings, which have no basis for truth, to rule over you. The fact is that most liberals do not use their God given reason, they just act on their feelings and I have no respect for that.

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