Slovenia Rejects Marriage Equality with Pope Francis' Blessing

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Slovenians rejected equal marriage and adoption rights for same-gender couples in Sunday’s national referendum, an outcome encouraged by Pope Francis who opined on the vote last week.

63.5% of voters rejected the marriage equality law approved by Parliament last March, which had defined civil marriage as the union of two adults and equalized adoption rights reported the Associated Press. LGBT opponents acted quickly to the law’s passage, with a church-supported group called “Children Are At Stake” gathering nearly 40,000 signatures to file for the referendum. Slovenia is 60% Catholic, and it remains conservative on LGBT issues despite being more socially progressive than other post-Soviet nations.

LGBT-negative voices received a boost from Pope Francis during his Wednesday audience the week before Slovenia’s referendum. According to The New Civil Rights Movement, Francis told the general audience which included Slovenian pilgrims:

“I wish to encourage all Slovenians, especially those in public capacity, to preserve the family as the basic unit of society.”

This is not Pope Francis’ first time using a general audience to weigh in on marriage equality. In February, the pontiff endorsed an effort in Slovakia to ban equal marriage and adoption rights, as well as parental consent laws regarding sexual education in schools. In that case, the vote failed.

The pope’s interventions raise at least two issues for me.

First, Pope Francis’ language was similar in both appeals by focusing on the family as the “basic unit” or “vital cell” of society. Like many LGBT advocates, I agree with this sentiment, and I believe strengthening families is key for the common good. Strengthening this basic unit is precisely what expanding family law to include same-gender couples and their children does. Denying equal rights only undermines families. Pope Francis may be relying upon debunked sociological data frequently employed by anti-LGBT voices. Regardless, it appears he needs to update his understanding of LGBT families today (which have been noticeably absent from the institutional church’s ongoing reflections about family life in the last two years).

Second, why is Pope Francis endorsing political campaigns in Slovenia and Slovakia while foregoing similar interventions elsewhere. Certainly, the pope must contextualize his remarks. But he said nothing about marriage equality during his visit to the U.S., despite the bishops’ likely desires that he condemn Obergfell.  Moreover, he avoided LGBT criminalization completely when in Kenya and Uganda recently. Such selective remarks may be coincidence, but they may also reveal Pope Francis to be appeasing different audiences when it comes to LGBT issues. Preaching mercy to some audiences while simultaneously encouraging other audiences to deny equal rights is disingenuous at best.

Legislators with the United Left party in Slovenia said the referendum is merely a setback, with MP Violeta Tomic saying, “Sooner or later the law will be accepted.” In the meantime, LGBT Slovenians will remain second-class citizens without access to marriage or adoption rights, due in part to Pope Francis’ intervention against equality. This is not a hopeful start for the Year of Mercy in terms of LGBT human rights and the pope.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


16 replies
  1. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    Ah, yes. Francis went to Uganda and said nothing about the laws that demonize and threaten the lives of LGBT people. But he stuck his nose into Slovenia and urged people to vote against the rights of same sex couples to marry civilly. Apparently his religious beliefs don’t extend to the lives and rights of LGBT people. Apparently doing for the least does not mean doing for LGBT people. Pathetic. A church whose leaders hold as a central doctrine that certain people are not worthy of full respect and equal treatment (whether those people are LGBT, or women, or any other group of people) is a church that is seriously deficient. A church whose leaders put old doctrines ahead of reality is a church that is irrelevant. So much for Francis’ “year of mercy.” A hollow declaration for a hollow year. It reminds me of the “come home for Christmas” campaign that dioceses have had from time to time. Come home to what? To second class citizenship? To sitting in the pews without being able to receive Communion? To condemnations from the pulpit? To being fired from church jobs? That is not home. No wonder so many Catholics have left the church for good over the years. Francis says nice words. But those words are not meant for everyone. He continues to exclude people from his calls for mercy and his calls for justice. When political leaders are more inclusive than the head of the RC Church, we know that something is seriously amiss. When political leaders are more accepting than the religious leaders who claim to be teachers of the words and actions of Jesus, we can see clearly that it is those political leaders who are more in tune with the words and actions of Jesus than the religious leaders.

  2. Gary Cox
    Gary Cox says:

    Thanks for your hard work Bob, every time I feel there is hope for acceptance within the church my hopes are demolished. I so want to end it all and become Episcopalian but I work on Sundays. What to do? Stay home I guess. Thanks again………………….

  3. Father Anthony
    Father Anthony says:

    The Pope is old school and trying to avoid a schism in the Church. Slovenia is a minor nation where he could appease the tradionalists. Not fair but understandable.

  4. Brian Kneeland
    Brian Kneeland says:

    Sadly – the pope should never get involved in civil matters in any country! He also said it was to preserve families – yet he neglects to remember gays also have families. Until he sits and listens to gay families he will keep is archaic ideas!

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      Brian, I think much of the problem here involves Francis’ Jesuit training. Historically, the Jesuits are known masters of classical (and effective political) rhetoric — and so they can target their remarks to win the support of the particular constituency they’re addressing. The problem arises — especially in the age of modern communication — when the remarks a Jesuit made to one group are then telegraphed to another constituency, to whom he had spoken quite differently about the very same subject. In olden days, this cross-communication would be less likely to take place. But in our age of instantaneous electronic communication, the rhetorical sleight-of-hand is quickly discovered, and BOTH groups end up being aggrieved, or even infuriated. It’s to the point that I’m no longer sure if Francis’ reported exhortation to the notorious Kim Davis — “Stay Strong” — was in fact made in total ignorance of her one-woman campaign against legalized same-sex marriage. It would be refreshing if Francis would “clean up his act”, and tell the whole world precisely where he stands on crucial issues such as same-sex civil marriage. Nobody’s asking him to change the Church’s position on sacramental marriage, at least at this point. But if he tends to talk out of both sides of his mouth — depending upon the particular local constituency he’s addressing — how can we believe anything he says at all?

      • Loretta Fitzgerald
        Loretta Fitzgerald says:

        Good points. However, for me the sacramental nature is more important than the civil, aside from the obvious legal benefits (and disadvantages). It’s far more fundamental to acknowledge the presence of Divine Love in people and unions than to Acknowledge a Constitutional right. I think that might play a part in why we stay and live RC. Rights can be argued, removed, but Divine Love is not legislated. St. Augustine named 35 sacraments one of which was friendship. For me, the sacrament of same-sex marriage is THE truth that Francis and his minions must see with the eyes of faith.


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