The pontiff on Friday said during a rally for families at a Manila mall that “ideological colonization” seeks to “destroy the family.”
“Let’s not lose the freedom of the mission that God gives us, the mission of the family,” said Francis. “And so our people have reached a moment of maturity in their history to say ‘no’ to any political colonization. As family we have to be very, very sagacious, very firm, very strong to say ‘no’ to any intent of ideological colonization towards the family.”
Francis earlier in the day appeared to reiterate this message during a Mass at Manila’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
“Proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society, which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family,” said the pontiff during his homily. “As you know, these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.”
Francis’ comments seem to counter his previous statements that indicated the Vatican’s more moderate approach towards gays and lesbians since he became pontiff nearly two years ago.
The Argentine-born pontiff 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 less than two months later published an interview with Francis during which he said the church has grown “obsessed” with same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception.
Francis last November demoted American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is an outspoken critic of marriage rights for gays and lesbians and abortion.
Catholic bishops who attended a meeting on the family a few weeks earlier released a draft document that states those with “homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect and sensitivity” and should not face “unjust discrimination.”
The document said same-sex unions are not “remotely analogous” to “God’s plan for marriage and the family.” It also criticized “international pressure” to support nuptials for gays and lesbians.
The bishops released their document slightly more than four years after Francis, who is the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, described Argentina’s same-sex marriage bill as “the work of the devil” before President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it into law.
“Once again Francisco, who is (Jorge) Bergoglio, insulted lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people,” said Esteban Paulón, president of the LGBT Federation of Argentina, in a statement. “He allocated the recent advances throughout the world — that resulted from the struggle and the work of LGBT organizations — to an alleged ‘colonial’ trend that does nothing more than promote hatred and xenophobia and discrimination against sexual diversity.”
Jonas Bagas, a Philippine LGBT rights advocates, criticized Francis on his Twitter page.
Dear @pontifex, it's the Church's hatred vs LGBTs that's breaking the family. Many children have been abused w/in the family for being LGBT.
— jonas bagas (@jonasbagas) January 17, 2015
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, a group for LGBT Catholics, in a statement said her organization is “disturbed and disappointed” by the pontiff’s comments.
“Especially in light of the more welcoming and sensitive tone on LGBT issues that the Pope has taken over the past two years, it is disconcerting to hear a phrase that is a hallmark of extreme right-wing religious leaders and politicians coming from the leader of the Catholic Church,” she said. “We hope that these recent remarks do not represent a resurgence of anti-marriage equality activity from the Vatican and the world’s Catholic bishops, just a short time after the Pope seemed to discourage such activity in the United States and elsewhere.”
Roughly 80 percent of the Philippine population is Catholic.
The Philippines is among the countries that supported a resolution against anti-LGBT discrimination and violence the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted last September.
Anti-LGBT discrimination and violence remain serious concerns in the country, especially after the death of a transgender woman in October 2014 who was allegedly murdered by a U.S. Marine. Church officials remain opposed to any effort to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to a proposed national anti-discrimination measure that has languished in the Philippine Congress for more than a decade.