In what may be his most explicit rejection of the legitimacy of same-gender marriage, Pope Francis rejected the notion that any new forms of legal unions for couples can be accepted,
In a speech to the Roman Rota, the Vatican tribunal which judges, among other things, marriage annulment requests, the pope said that the recent two synods on the family
“told the world that there can be no confusion between the family as willed by God, and every other type of union”.
Ansa.it reported the news, noting that the pope elaborated on his comments:
“The Church continues to propose marriage in its essentials – offspring, good of the couple, unity, indissolubility, sacramentality – not as ideal only for a few – notwithstanding modern models centered on the ephemeral and the transient – but as a reality that can be experienced by all the baptized faithful.”
PinkNews.co.uk reported that he also said:
“The family, founded on indissoluble matrimony that unites and allows procreation, is part of God’s dream and that of his Church for the salvation of humanity.”
As noted by several journalists, what makes the pontiff’s comments even more significant is that they come just as the Italian parliament is debating a bill to allow civil unions for lesbian and gay couples.
John Allen, writing at Crux, agreed that the timing of the pope’s speech in relation to the Italian bill is significant, but he also noted that it could also show that Francis will not be liberalizing rules about annulments or communion for divorced/remarried Catholics.
“The pope’s comments also suggested an important dose of perspective on his recent reform of the annulment process, intended to make it faster, easier to navigate, and cheaper. In effect, Francis seemed to be saying that what he wants is a more user-friendly system, but not necessarily a looser one.”
After reviewing the main points of the speech, Allen commented:
‘. . . .it does not suggest a pope who finds the present discipline on marriage unrealistic, or one who believes that the grounds for annulling a marriage need to be significantly expanded.”
While the pope has opposed political initiatives for same-gender marriage (he spoke out specifically on the matter when it was being discussed in Slovakia and Slovenia), his latest statement may be his most specific statement on the matter as a theological topic.
Is this latest speech an indication that the pope will take a more conservative approach to LGBT issues in his anticipated response to the synods on family? Clearly, it indicates that he will not be supporting marriage equality as a political or ecclesial option. But that was never something that anyone expected from his synod response. In discussing LGBT issues, the synods did not touch on the definition of marriage in the Church’s discourse, so it was unlikely that there would be any progress in that regard in the pope’s response.
But the synods did talk about pastoral outreach to lesbian and gay people and their families. I think there is a good chance that Pope Francis will be generous in regard to pastoral ministry for LGBT people. Almost all of his previous statements on pastoral ministry indicate that he sees it as an important step for church leaders to take. Moreover, his personal witness, such as meeting with his former student who is in a committed gay relationship, indicates that he could very much encourage church leaders to follow his example. Pope Francis’ actions often speak louder than his words.
His clear statement against marriage equality in the midst of a political debate about civil unions in Italy, however, is very disappointing.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry