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Yesterday, Rev. James Martin, a relatively liberal Jesuit priest, posted on Twitter that he had received a letter from Pope Francis praising him for his work reaching out to LGBTQ Catholics.

“I see that you are continually seeking to imitate this style of God,” the pope wrote. “You are a priest for all men and women, just as God is a Father for all men and women. I pray for you to continue in this way, being close, compassionate and with great tenderness.”

That may sounds like a cause for celebration. The pope is lauding a priest who supports LGBTQ people! Yay! That’s certainly how many conservatives in the Church are treating it — and they’re furious.

What is clear is that the new note will serve as fresh fodder in a battle within the church between frustrated progressives who hope the pope’s inclusive message will finally lead to change and wary conservatives, who are hoping the church will maintain its traditions

But how is there any confusion here?

The pope is still Catholic. He thinks homosexual acts are “intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law,” while homosexual “tendencies” are “objectively disordered.” He opposes same-sex marriage even if he supports civil unions. He oversees a religious institution that believes it’s absolutely a sin to do anything gay even if being gay isn’t a sin by itself. The Catholic Church loves gay people… as long as they remain celibate and never get married.

This is the same pope who rejects the very idea of being transgender and says the notion that people can change their genders on a whim — which is not how being trans works — is “ideological colonization.” A document released by the Vatican in 2019 even denounced the concept of gender fluidity.

This is the same pope who said in his pre-pope days that same-sex adoption was a form of discrimination against children. In 2010, he also urged religious leaders to pray against the legalization of same-sex marriage in Argentina because it would “seriously damage the family.”

This is the same Vatican that, just this week, complained about an anti-discrimination bill in Italy that includes protections for LGBTQ people.

This isn’t complicated. The pope is not an ally. He’s not a friend. He just allows for treating LGBTQ people with basic respect, which is the bare minimum you can do without contradicting Catholic teachings.

How do so many people keep falling for the pope’s schtick? They’ve been thinking he’s an ally ever since he asked “Who am I to judge?” and they’ve been wrong every time. God’s love toward LGBTQ people, according to Catholic doctrine, is conditional; it expires the moment gay people choose to get married to someone of the same sex or act on their normal sexual desires.

So what if the pope wrote a letter praising a priest for the kindness he’s shown toward LGBTQ people? The Catholic Church is an obstacle to LGBTQ civil rights and public acceptance and the pope is fine with that.

(Featured image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.