Pope Francis is under fire Monday after he said that children who show "homosexual tendencies" should be treated with understanding and not to be condemned or ignored while flying to Rome after the end of his papal visit to Ireland.
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The Vatican later removed his phrase from its official account, saying he had not meant to suggest that homosexuality was a mental illness.
Francis was asked by a journalist what he would say to parents who observe homosexual traits in their children.
"When it shows itself from childhood, there is a lot that can be done through psychiatry, to see how things are. It is something else if it shows itself after 20 years," he said. The pope added that ignoring a child who showed homosexual tendencies was an "error of fatherhood or motherhood".
However, when the Vatican later published the pope's answer, the reference to psychiatry had been removed.
When asked why a Vatican spokeswoman told AFP it had been done in order to not "change the thoughts of the Holy Father." "When the pope referred to 'psychiatry', it is clear that he was doing it to highlight an example of 'things that can be done'. But with that word he didn't mean to say that it (homosexuality) was a 'mental illness'," she said.
Francis' trip to Ireland was fraught with controversy amid accusations that he ignored sexual abuse allegations against prominent U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Pope Francis said Sunday he would not respond to a former top Vatican official who accused him of having known for years of allegations of sex abuse by a prominent U.S. cardinal, calling on the pontiff to resign in an unprecedented broadside against the pope by a Church insider.
In a detailed 11-page bombshell statement given to conservative Roman Catholic media outlets during the pope's visit to Ireland, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano accused a long list of current and past Vatican and U.S. Church officials of covering up the case of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who resigned last month in disgrace.