Pope Francis Makes Strong Statement Opposing Marriage Equality

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”.

Pope Francis

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.

Allen wrote:

“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

Related article:


The Guardian: “Pope Francis defends ‘traditional’ marriage ahead of Italy civil unions vote”

0 replies
  1. Martin
    Martin says:

    I don’t read the Pope’s reference to different types of unions as quite as antagonistic as do some commentators. Same-sex unions and families can receive equal social, and I would add religious, recognition without requiring ‘sameness’. Some of us would say that they enjoy an integral quality, distinct from that of a man and a woman, and therefore quite rightly not requiring ‘confusion’ with heterosexualk marriage and family life. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis was able to recognise the value of same-sex civil unions, even if the other Argentinian Bishops declined to follow him in this approach. Our discernment should be careful about reading too much exclusivity in papal statements. Catholic and LGBT diversity should be about ‘both/and’, rather than ‘either/or’. Those of us who don’t feel called to marriage, as traditionally understood, can therefore continue to celebrate the sacramentality of our unions with no detriment to heterosexual marriage.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      I tend to agree with you, Martin. I think Francis is doing his best to “walk a center line” on these social issues which have the potential to rip the Church apart. He is orders of magnitude better than the American bishops — those of the Paprocki ilk — who are downright vicious and hateful toward “unrepentant” GLBT Catholics, and who thereby bring deep disgrace upon the Church’s pastoral mandate and mission. I would like to see Francis take on those hateful antagonists, and ask them to “chill it” with their anti-pastoral rhetoric. And while he’s at it, he should DEMAND the resignation of the 79-year-old Cardinal in the Dominican Republic, who hurls foul epithets (like “faggot”) at Catholics who fall under his jurisdiction. For that sort of malicious misbehavior, there is absolutely no scintilla of an excuse.

  2. lynne miller
    lynne miller says:

    Well, this is sad. I didn’t expect all the doors to open, but I hoped for access to the sacrament for divorced Catholics and less problem with annulment. I do appreciate the Holy Father’s loving approach to all, and his saying that people shouldn’t be turned away from Communion if they approach in good conscience, which no one can know but themselves. Still, it’s sad that everything must happen so slowly.

  3. Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM
    Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM says:

    Along with upcoming legislation in Italy, there is also the recent events in the Anglican church. I think that may also be on his mind. Nonetheless, disappointed is an extremely mild word for my feelings at this time. While my brothers in the hierarchy are engaged in wordsmithing and theological chess, another gay youth commits suicide, another transgender brother/ sister is murdered, another family is splintered because a parent believes someone else knows their loved one better than they do and recommends the loved one to be banished. I’m more than disappointed. My brother, Francis, please weigh the damage done by this. Paul may not have thrown the stones that killed Stephen, but he did hold the cloaks of those who did. Please reconsider your words. And you are in my prayers.

  4. Jimmy Mac
    Jimmy Mac says:

    He is a creature of his generation, his ethnicity and his upbringing. And his theology. To expect otherwise from Francis is simply wishful thinking.

    Wake up, folks: it ain’t gonna change!

  5. Albertus
    Albertus says:

    My immediate thoughts on what the Pope has said is that he does not oppose civil unions, but perhaps even approves of civil unions for same-sex couples; he seems to oppose calling such unions ”marriage”, maintaining that there is and must remain a distinction between such unions and heterosexual marriage. According to the Pope, the two recent 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”.
    This can be construed as positive for civil unions for gay couples: it is certainly not a condemnation. And frankly, at this time (perhaps at any time), i did not expect anything else from this Pope.
    What puzzles me is the following statement:
    Pope Francis said: “The Church continues to propose marriage in its essentials – offspring, good of the couple, unity, indissolubility, sacramentality – not as ideal only for a few – … but as a reality that can be experienced by all the baptised faithful.” By all the baptised faithful? How is that possible? Gay Catholics cannot experience heterosexual marriage for Church marriage tribunals have for many decades regularly declared ”marriages” between a gay man and a woman to be null and void. Thus, it is not true that all the baptised faithful can experience heterosexual marriage. Nor can nearly all priests of the Latin Church, who must remain unmarried. This kind of language shows that the Pope’s speaking is not precise, it is sloppy, or worse, deliberately demogogic, something that i donot want to believe. The Pope should offer concrete possiblities for gay couples when speaking on the subject of marriage, – such as civil unions – rather than pretend that gay couples, and others who are not called to heterosexual marriage, do not exist amongst the ”baptised faithful”.

  6. Larry
    Larry says:

    Not only very disappointing but I think a true indication finally of the way this Pontiff is going to go. Before this, he gave us hope but now that is fading. And what is extremely problematic is that he is making his statements in a way timed to influence the public sphere where there are now opportunities for gay folks to gain CIVIL rights but his words will be used to influence keeping us down in the public arena. In that light, his focus on mercy which in itself is laudatory is beginning to me to look somewhat calculated . Maybe this is “love the sinner, hate the sin” in new sheep’s clothing i.e. be merciful to these poor gays until they come around to the true way – as in his last statement on which I commented wherein he suggested that gay people go to confession.

    And as a newly minted Episcopalian of several years, I needed to understand what happened in the Anglican Communion that seemed to discipline the American Church. There is a strong opinion that what was done was done without true authority as only the Anglican General Convention has such power and that body and been consistently and increasingly supportive of gays and lesbians in the Church. My parish is openly welcoming and affirming to the gay community with a lesbian in our congregation discerning for the priesthood. If I went two towns over, I could go to an Episcopalian Church with a lesbian pastor married to her partner etc. etc. Yet in NJ with its dense population and RC churches everywhere, there are one or two statewide that would give me the same welcome and affirmation. Just saying.

  7. Sharon Rose
    Sharon Rose says:

    Whatever. I am not waiting for the approval of Francis. I am here to be fully who I am and not to go away in shame because of the way God created me. God approves and my conscience is clear and I am still Catholic.

  8. Chris Chris Wolfe
    Chris Chris Wolfe says:

    This is the same guy who, only a few months ago, went to three different African countries where LGBT people are being imprisoned, tortured, brutally beaten, flogged, raped (gay women are being raped so that they will forced into being heterosexual – go figure the thinking on that one) and murdered. The countries in question are doing nothing to stop the violence against gay people as they seem to think LGBT people have it coming for being such evil sinners. It’s also illegal to be gay in these countries so when one is beaten up or hurt for being gay, it’s not wise to report it. I would have thought the Pope would have said something about the brutality and violence. Perhaps Francis could have reminded the people about, “let he without sin cast the first stone… ” If the Pope had said ANYTHING at all it could have helped to stop the atrocities being done to gay people. Yet he said nothing what so ever… Not one word. This isn’t a guy trying to walk the middle road. This is a man who’s bailed on us altogether. Frankly, I didn’t expect him to embrace gay marriage, EVER. However I *was* hoping that he would discuss a more humane way and inclusive way to deal with LGBT people. I’m guess I’m lucky though. I realized some time ago that he had no intentions of trying to make the church a more inclusive institution. The good news is: I no longer cry at night over the Catholic church. This is because I have given up on the Catholic faith entirely. Be well.

    • Larry
      Larry says:

      I completely agree with Chris. Where was Francis’ “mercy” then?? He talks the talk but does not walk the walk. And again, in the 21st Century could the Pope say what he means instead of reverting to this vague church-speak open to all kinds of interpretation.

  9. Thom
    Thom says:

    Another heartbreaking, heartrending news clip. I appreciate New Ways Ministry so much in so many ways, but must admit that the roller coaster of this blog: the ups and downs, and highs and lows, and being thrown a bone of HOPE and then SOUL-CRUSHING DEFEATIST hierarchical pronouncements… sometimes exhausts my anxious psyche. All of it is important news, of course, and I think partly my frenetic see-saw of emotional reaction is due to technological innovations of the exponential rise in the immediacy of news and media communications—something with which my physiological human brain has not matched pace on an evolutionary scale yet…

    I appreciate the comments of Albertus, above, for pointing-out some well-considered—and dumbfounding—paradoxes of doctrinal practice versus preaching. And would like to add that I, too, find so much of Vatican and papal decree to be so antithetical to certain theological teaching. For instance, the news story presented here noting that Pope Françis is doctrinally against same-sex marriage… does not seem to parallel his homily of only a few days ago decrying that obstinate Christians who cannot move forward and cannot get past the idea that “it’s always been done this way” are guilty of concretizing and literalizing the Bible and should be considered rebels against the message of Christ and idolaters. Read the homily here at Vatican Radio: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/01/18/pope_francis_obstinate_christians_are_rebels_and_idolaters/1201825

    I think—partly—that we should not forget that holding the office of the papacy is not only a holy ordination of the universal church… but it is also a political office. And as noted, not only are there several world-wide legislative current event items that might affect the tack of Françis’s sail, but that he undoubtedly feels blowing gales from several directions of the political landscape, including from the curia. It could well be that Françis’s statement is some sort of concession on his political wind-tossed sea. IT DOESN’T MEAN THAT IT IS RIGHT AND JUST. But there may be reason behind it.

    Also, if the blog moderators will allow me the indulgence, I should like to say that in such times I often turn to the stories of the Acts of the Apostles for comfort. I am reminded here of Gamaliel’s argument for sparing the Apostles after they have been arrested for teaching in the name of Jesus Christ (in Acts 5:33-42). Gamaliel wisely ruminates to his fellow jurors to consider that they should allow for God alone to decide whether the prisoner’s actions run against His will:

    “…So now I tell you; have nothing to do with these [apostles], and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”

    We know that LGBT people “come from God.” And no matter how long and how persistently persecuted, LGBT people have not disappeared. We have not been destroyed, and we continue to simply ask for enrichment and nourishment at the Eucharistic table. It is not LGBT people who fight against God or God’s natural creation. WE ARE GOD’S NATURAL CREATION. It is those who alienate LGBT people, those who discriminate, those who continue to persecute LGBT people, and those who try to rationalize that persecuting gay and lesbian people “is how it’s always been done…” it is these idolaters who fight against God’s will… Because it is God’s will that we are here.

    And, like the Apostles, like New Ways Ministry, you have an important role in the reëmergent Church for which we hold out hope. For just as in this weekend’s reading from the Letter of Paul to the Corinthians 12:12-30 states:

    “Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy… Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it…”

    Some day, the Church will recognize LGBT people for the honorable parts that we are. Some day all of us will share in the same joy. Keep faith. Bless you.

  10. Loretta Fitzgerald
    Loretta Fitzgerald says:

    I wonder if any of those who condemn LGBTQ children of God and advocates make the connection to last Sunday’s reading on body parts. You know the one. I particularly connected with the passage that spoke of those parts which we hide are most honored. Well that to me is clear. Those who have had to hide and those who still feel that they have to are most honored.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] in January, in a speech to the Roman Rota, Pope Francis said “there can be no confusion between the family as willed by God, and every […]

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  3. […] audiences, his foreign travels, and everything else in between. But he lodged his harshest criticism of marriage equality yet in January, and his involvement in Italy’s debate over civil unions has been […]

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