Using dating apps like Tinder to meet potential partners is “normal” and the Catholic Church’s teaching about sex is “still in diapers,” Pope Francis said in a new documentary released this week.
“Sex is one of the beautiful things God gave to human beings,” the pontiff said in a conversation with 10 Spanish-speaking young adults for a documentary called “The Pope: Answers.”
The group of people, ages 20 to 25, including Catholics, Christians, atheists, agnostics and one Muslim quizzed him on a range of topics including sex, masturbation, disillusionment with the church, the church’s sexual abuse crisis, racism, immigration, abortion and the LGBTQ community for the film that was recorded in June 2002 and released on Disney+ on Wednesday.
In one discussion on pornography and masturbation ignited by Alejandra, a woman who creates adult content on livestreaming sites, the pope said pornography “diminishes.”
“To express oneself sexually is something rich,” he said. “Anything that diminishes a true sexual expression diminishes you as well, it renders you partial, and it diminishes that richness. Sex has a dynamic of its own. It exists for a reason. It’s an expression of love.”
After admitting that he did not have a cellphone, Francis, 86, was asked what he thought about young people meeting romantic partners on Tinder.
“It’s normal,” he said. “Young people have that eagerness to meet each other, and that’s very good.”
Asked whether he wanted to be in a relationship, he said he had been in one “before I entered the seminary. but then I chose celibacy.”
At another point, he said Christians had not always had a mature catechesis, or religious instruction, on sex and it was “still at a very early stage.” He added that the church’s “catechesis on sex is still in diapers.”
Asked about abortion, Francis said he instructed priests ministering women who have had terminations to “not ask many questions and be merciful, such as Jesus was.”
He added that we should not “send her to hell all of a sudden or isolate her, no. We should stay by her side.”
But he said that abortion must also be looked at “scientifically, and with a certain coldness.” He added that one month from conception an embryo was not “a bunch of cells that got together, but a systemized human life.”
Celia, who identified herself as nonbinary, asked him if the church can hold space for the transgender, nonbinary and LGBTQ community in general.
“The church cannot close its doors on anybody,” Francis said. “I don’t have the right to cast anyone out from the church,” he added. “My job is to receive, always.”
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Francis has been hailed as more progressive than some of his predecessors for his views on the LGBTQ community, having previously called for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples. And in January, he said homosexuality wasn’t a crime and described laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust.” He said God loves everyone just as they are.
The pope’s candor appeared to go down well with the group. One described him as “laid back,” saying there was “not so much pomp about him.”
The documentary was released days after Francis was discharged Saturday from a Rome hospital where he was treated for bronchitis. He received antibiotics administered intravenously during his three-day stay.