Home World News Pope Francis endorses same-s.e.x civil unions

Pope Francis endorses same-s.e.x civil unions

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Pope Francis

Pope Francis endorses same-s.e.x civil unions

Pope Francis became the first pontiff to endorse same-s.e.x civil unions in comments for a documentary that premiered Wednesday, sparking cheers from gay Catholics and demands for clarification from conservatives, given the Vatican’s official teaching on the issue.The papal thumbs-up came midway through the feature-length documentary “Francesco,” which premiered at the Rome Film Festival. The film, which features fresh interviews with the pope, delves into issues Francis cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said in one of his sit-down interviews for the film. “You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favor of civil unions as pope, and no pontiff before him had, either.

Later Wednesday, questions arose about when Francis first made the remarks. The scene of his interview is identical to one from 2019 with Mexican broadcaster Televisa, but his comments about the need for legal protections for civil unions apparently never aired until the documentary.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit who has sought to build bridges with gay Catholics, praised the comments as “a major step forward in the church’s support for LGBT people.”

“The pope’s speaking positively about civil unions also sends a strong message to places where the church has opposed such laws,” Martin said in a statement.

However, the conservative bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, Thomas Tobin, immediately called for clarification. “The pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the church about same-sex unions,” Tobin said in a statement. “The church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships.”

And Ed Mechmann, director of public policy at the Archdiocese of New York, said in a blog post that the pope had simply “made a serious mistake.”

Catholic teaching holds that gays must be treated with dignity and respect but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” A 2003 document from the Vatican’s doctrine office stated that the church’s respect for gays “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

Doing so, the Vatican reasoned, would not only condone “deviant behavior,” but create an equivalence to marriage, which the church holds is an indissoluble union between man and woman.

That document was signed by the then-prefect of the office, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI and Francis’ predecessor.

Director Evgeny Afineevsky, who is gay, expressed surprise after the premiere Wednesday that the pope’s comments on civil unions had created such a firestorm, saying Francis wasn’t trying to change doctrine but was merely expressing his belief that gays should enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals.

“The world needs positivity right now, the world needs to care about climate change, care about refugees and migration, borders, walls, family separation,” Afineevsky said, urging attention be paid to the main issues covered by the film.

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