Meeting privately this week with bishops in Poland, Pope Francis said that it was “terrible” that schools were teaching children that they can choose their gender.

“Today, in schools they are teaching this to children – to children! – that everyone can choose their gender,” Francis said, according to a transcript released by the Vatican on Tuesday.

“This is terrible,” he added.

A leading organization of LGBT Catholics lamented Francis' comments.

“It's very troubling that the pope would say this,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, told The New York Times. “It also shows that the pope doesn't understand the danger that his words can mean for gender-nonconforming people, particularly those who live in countries with laws or culture pressures that put these people at risk for violence.”

Pope Francis suggested that influential donors and countries, which he did not name, were behind such curriculum.

The Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior analyst for The National Catholic Reporter, told the Times that Francis “feels that this kind of stuff is being pushed down their throats.”

Sarah McBride, a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said that there have been times “where [Pope Francis has] demonstrated compassion [to transgender people]. Then there have been other times where his words have been not only hurtful, and frankly harmful, but really demonstrating a misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender.”

(Related: Sarah McBride to DNC delegates: “I am a proud transgender American.”)