While religious conservatives have long argued being gay is a choice and even a "disorder," Pope Francis has been known to push back on those arguments, most famously with his 2013 statement: "Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?" Now he may have made even more "forceful" remarks on the subject, Catholic journalist Austen Ivereigh tells the Guardian, via a gay man who'd been sexually abused by Chilean priest Fernando Karadima. Juan Carlos Cruz talked with Francis a couple of weeks ago about his abuse and said the pontiff had encouraging words after Cruz noted that his homosexuality had been used to smear him. "He told me, 'Juan Carlos, that you are gay does not matter,'" Cruz told Spanish paper El Pais. "'God made you like this and loves you like this and I don't care. The pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are.'"
Cruz had been one of three Chilean sex abuse victims who'd traveled to Rome for an audience with the pope, the Telegraph reports. So far, there's been no confirmation or denial from the Vatican about what exactly Francis said to Cruz; a spokesman told CNN, "We do not normally comment on the Pope's private conversations." One Vatican expert noted this wouldn't be any kind of theological or dogmatic shift on the Vatican's part, but simply "a pastoral response to an individual." Still, the pope speaking like that would signal even more of a change in attitude toward gay Catholics. "It goes beyond 'who am I to judge?' to 'you are loved by God,'" a reporter for the Tablet Catholic journal says. "He's demonstrating an affirmation of gay Catholics, something that has been missing over the years in Rome." (Read more Pope Francis stories.)