In an interview published in Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily, the pontiff suggested the Catholic Church could tolerate some types of same-sex civil unions as a practical measure to guarantee property rights and health care.
The pope said that “matrimony is between a man and a woman,” but moves to “regulate diverse situations of cohabitation (are) driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care.”
A number of Catholic bishops have supported civil unions for same-sex couples, including Francis when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
In an interview with CNN last year, Marcelo Marquez, a leading Argentinian LGBT rights activist, said that during that nation’s 2010 debate over same-sex marriage, he received a phone call from the Pope — then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Francis had led the Catholic Church’s public stance against legalizing same-sex marriage in Argentina while he was Archbishop. At the time, Francis called the proposed legislation “a destructive attack on God’s plan.”
Francis, who marks his first year as Pope on March 13, has sought to set a more tolerant tone for the Catholic Church on issues related to homosexuality and abortion.