Pope Francis became the first pontiff to endorse same-sex civil unions on 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 to same-sex civil unions came midway through the feature-length documentary ‘Francesco’ that had its debut screening at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday.
The film, which includes fresh interviews with the pontiff, looks into the issues that mean the most to Pope Francis, 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. “What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”
The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit who has sought to build bridges with gays in the church, 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, US conservative Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, called for clarification. “The pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the church about same-sex unions,” he said in a statement. “The church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships.”
Catholic teaching holds that gays must be treated with dignity and respect but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”
What is a “civil Union?”
According to Wikipedia, “A civil union (also known as a civil partnership) is a legally recognized arrangement similar to marriage, created primarily as a means to provide recognition in law for same-sex couples. Civil unions grant most or all of the rights of marriage except the title itself.”
Civil unions are commonly criticized as being ‘separate but equal’, critics say they segregate same-sex couples by forcing them to use a separate institution. Supporters of same-sex marriage contend that treating same-sex couples differently from other couples under the law allows for inferior treatment and that if civil unions were the same as marriage there would be no reason for two separate laws.
Is encouraging civil unions for same-sex couples enough from the Pope? Is this his way of attempting to change the hearts and minds of Catholics around the world?
In my opinion, it won’t be well-received by Catholics, and especially not conservative Catholics but, it is a step in the right direction. Share your thoughts in the comments.