Recently, Pope Francis opined in a new documentary film that same-sex couples should have the right to “civil unions.”
“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” said the Pope in the film. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it,” regarding his approach to pastoral care of Catholics. “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”
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“I stood up for that,” he added.
Many LGBTQ activists like myself refer to “civil unions” as “marriage-lite” and as a form of second class status.
The Pope has made himself quite clear where he stands on “real” and “true” marriage several times. In a 2017 book, the Pope stated: “Marriage between people of the same sex? ‘Marriage’ is a historical word. Always in humanity, and not only within the Church, it’s between a man and a woman… we cannot change that. This is the nature of things. This is how they are. Let’s call them ‘civil unions.’”
In a 2014 interview published in Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily periodical, the pontiff also suggested the Catholic Church could tolerate some types of same-sex civil unions as a practical measure to guarantee property rights and health care.
Then there were remarks at an impromptu news conference aboard his papal jet on July 29, 2013 – as a relatively new Pope – after completing his first international trip, where he spoke to millions celebrating “World Youth Day.” He responded to a question about gay priests and stated, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Who, indeed – either Francis lied at these times, or he was being ironic, because he has negatively judged LGBTQ people virtually throughout his papal tenure. A Vatican statement dated December 8, 2016 on the ordination of priests, “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” states that “[T]he Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to seminary or holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’ Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”
Is this really Francis’ impression of “profound respect”? Is that not anything but a toxic judgement, a fortification of an already existing condemnation?
Previously, the Vatican hierarchy locked out Alex Salinas, a 21-year-old trans man from Cadiz, Spain, by informing him that it had denied his request to become the godparent of his nephew because being transgender is incongruent with Catholic teaching.
According to the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its doctrine-enforcing agency, being transgender “reveals in a public way an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sexuality. Therefore it is evident that this person does not possess the requirement of leading a life according to the faith and in the position of godfather and is therefore unable to be admitted to the position of godfather or godmother.”
The Vatican asserted that there is “no discrimination toward [Salinas], but only the recognition of an objective lack of the requirements, which by their nature are necessary to assume the ecclesial responsibility of being a godfather.”
Regarding same-sex sexuality, Pope Francis publicly speaks in support of people – but he publicly reinforces a wall of separation based on scripture otherwise, which according to the Roman Catholic Church Catechism 2357, states:
“Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are gravely disordered. They are contrary to natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of love [i.e., children]. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
“Gravely disordered” in this passage refers to acting on same-sex desires with another person while not necessarily applying to the person or people involved: the old “we hate the sin but love the sinner” slight-of-hand.
For individuals within the Church who cannot or will not change to a heterosexual orientation, they are tolerated if they are able and willing to scale the unreasonable and inhumane heights of the Catholic ramparts by following Roman Catholic Church Catechism 2359:
“Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”
Will the Church allow sex within same-sex couples who commit to “civil unions”? If so, the Church will essentially condone “acts of grave depravity” as defined in Catechism 2357, or rather, will it continue to dictate that “Homosexual persons are called to chastity” as stated in Catechism 2359?
Pope Francis argued at a Vatican conference on so-called “traditional marriage” in November 2014 that marriage is between a man and a woman and that “[t]his complementarity is at the root of marriage and family.” He added that this union between a man and a woman is “an anthropological fact…that cannot be qualified based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history.”
Does his previous statement on “the nature of things” in “civil unions” contradict this supposed “anthropological fact”?
He also asserted in 2014 that “children have the right to grow up in a family with a father and mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.” Francis reinforced his Church-imposed “invisible” wall in front of more than 1,000 families in the Philippines during a 2015 trip when he warned that “the family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.”
These forces, he said, are attempting the “ideological colonization of the family.” Among other forces, this was also a reference to marriage for same-sex couples.
The Pope demeaned LGBTQ people at another weekly Vatican audience when he gave his unqualified blessing to a Slovakian referendum outlawing same-sex unions and adoption rights for same-sex couples. He proclaimed: “I greet the pilgrims from Slovakia and, through them, I wish to express my appreciation to the entire Slovak church, encouraging everyone to continue their efforts in defense of the family, the vital cell of society.”
So El Papa Francisco has hardened and extended the already unfathomable Catholic barriers of denying LGBTQ people — his “children” — the rights of full marriage and adoption and to their sexuality and gender identities and expressions. He continues to deny them the benefits, privileges, and responsibilities of legalized partnerships and families, continues to prohibit them from the priesthood, and even denies them the right to be named and serve as godparents.
Does his recent proposal for Church sanctioned “civil unions” send a message of a softening Church dogma, or can it be seen as something more cynical?
Can it be merely Pope Francis’ attempt to attract more parishioners into increasingly emptied pews and to donate desperately needed funds into dwindling Church coffers after paying out millions – including public tax dollars from the recent Coronavirus stimulus payments from the U.S. government — to victims of priestly sexual abuse?
While some may call the Pope’s acceptance of civil unions as revolutionary, anything “revolutionary” when it refers to the Catholic Church is highly relative, here meaning bringing the institution out of the 17th-century and into the 19th.
Francis and his Church have restrained the human and civil rights of LGBTQ people. The Catholic Church constructs barriers while speaking in doublespeak, saying “we love you,” “we welcome you,” “we offer you ‘Christian love,’” and “we are here to help you change your unwanted attractions and gender identities and expressions,” which they, by the way, construct as “gravely and intrinsically disordered” and incongruent with Catholic teaching.
Is denying any individual their subjectivity and agency true love? Or is it, rather, cruelty, discrimination – and, yes, abuse and oppression?
All we have to look forward to from the Catholic Church is the same ol’, same ol’ barriers for probably the next millennium or so. But by then, humanity will overpopulate itself into extinction through the Church’s ban on contraceptives and denial of women’s reproductive freedoms.