LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An Evangelical lesbian who met with Pope Francis on Thursday said the Catholic leader had shown warmth and concern over her objections to “conversion therapy”, a widely discredited effort often used by religious figures to turn gay people straight.
Pope Francis “seemed to understand what conversion therapy was,” Jayne Ozanne, a British Christian, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from the Vatican.
“I thought he was extremely warm, he was very pastoral,” she said. “He seemed concerned … I felt very embraced.”
Ozanne attended mass with Francis at his private chapel, then told him about her own efforts to become straight after the church told her she “could never be a wife, a mother or a grandmother”.
She presented him with research into conversion therapy, which purports to ‘cure’ homosexuality and change gender identity, showing a high incidence of suicide attempts after the treatment.
Often carried out by religious groups, the therapies range from counseling to hypnosis and electric shock therapy.
The various methods have been widely condemned by medical associations as ineffective and harmful to mental health. Yet they remain widespread in some anti-gay, conservative circles.
The Vatican did not respond to requests for comment.
A fifth of gay, lesbian and bisexual Britons who have tried to change their sexuality have attempted suicide, while others have been raped in an effort to make them straight, according to Ozanne’s study.
Worldwide, Malta, Ecuador, Brazil and Taiwan have banned conversion therapy, according to OutRight Action International, an LGBT+ advocacy group. Earlier this month, Germany’s health minister introduced a draft law banning the practice for minors.
Ozanne told Francis she prays that every person knows they are “acceptable just as they are”, she said, and that he responded: “Please pray for me as I pray for you”.
Francis has faced criticism from some conservative Catholics
for his stance on various theological issues, as well as on social matters from immigration to climate change.
In 2013, Francis said, “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge.”
The Church says gay people should be respected and their dignity defended. It teaches that same-sex attractions are not sinful but homosexual acts are.
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