Pope Francis Allows For Civil Unions for Lesbian and Gay Couples

A new book, Pope Francis has spoken out on a variety of topics from his personal development to many issues facing church and state.   Not surprisingly, LGBT topics were mentioned, and not surprisingly, the pope’s statements are a mixed bag.

The book, entitled Politics and Society, is a series of 12 conversations between the pope and Dominique Wolton, a French sociologist.   Crux carried a string of excerpts from the book on his visits to a psychoanalyst, the role of the laity, colonial exploitation, and, of course, same-gender marriage and gender identity.   On the last topic, the excerpt reads:

Pope Francis

“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.’ Lets not play with the truth. It’s true that behind it there is a gender ideology. In books also, children are learning that they can choose their own sex. Why is sex, being a woman or a man, a choice and not a fact of nature? This favors this mistake. But let’s say things as they are: Marriage is between a man and a woman. This is the precise term. Lets call unions between the same sex ‘civil unions’.”

For the most part, this section is not surprising.  On many occasions, Pope Francis has stated his opposition to marriage for lesbian and gay people.   And he is also on the record for being negative towards new understandings of gender identity, though positive about welcoming transgender people.

What’s new here, however, is his endorsement of civil unions for same-sex couples. Although many church leaders have suggested supporting such an arrangement in recent years, Pope Francis has never, as pontiff, stated his endorsement of civil unions so flatly.   (He did support civil unions as a compromise to his opposition towards marriage equality when he was an archbishop in Argentina.  As pontiff, he did make an ambiguous statement about civil unions, which inspired  more questions than certainty about his position.)  This new statement of support from him  is a giant step forward. What is significant here is that he is agreeing to the importance of some sort legal recognition of civil unions for lesbian and gay couples. I don’t think he will be campaigning for such legislation, but it sure sounds like he is comfortable with them and that he won’t be blocking them.

Most troublesome, though, is his continuation of promoting the idea that children are being taught to choose their sex or gender.  He has said such before, but in all the material I have read on transgender issues and education about gender, I have never seen any evidence that children are being taught such a notion.  In fact, it goes against what most transgender people say of their experience which they describe as a discovery of a discrepancy between their internally experienced gender and their external physical bodies.  “Discovery” is a very long way from “choice.”

Moreover,  I don’t know of any educational programs that discuss gender with children before it is educationally and psychologically appropriate to do so.

So, once again, Pope Francis both progresses and regresses on LGBT issues.

To read all of Crux’s excerpts, click here.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 2, 2014


12 replies
  1. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    The messages and actions of Jesus as described in the Gospels are all very simple. Why have the teachings of those who purport to speak for him, become so complicated and muddled?

  2. terryweldon
    terryweldon says:

    Is this really a ” declarative endorsement of civil unions for same-sex couples”? I’d love to think so, but I cannot see it that way. As I read the passage quoted in Crux, all he has done is make a statement of language. As a simple statement of fact, he obviously recognises that that these same-sex legal partnerships exist. He does not want them to be described as marriage, and would prefer them to be called civil unions. That does not imply that he supports them.

    It is of course possible that he does support civil unions, but has not spelled this out. It is also possible that that the fuller context of these words in the complete text will give us more clues to his thinking.

    But based on the actual words quoted here, I think you have over-interpreted what he in fact said. For more, we’ll have to wait for the full text when the book is published.

    • Francis DeBernardo, Editor
      Francis DeBernardo, Editor says:

      I agree, Terry, that “declarative” might have been too strong, and I amended the post by taking it out. What is important, though, is that he is agreeing to the importance of some sort legal recognition of civil unions for lesbian and gay couples. I don’t think he will be promoting such legislation, but it sure sounds like he won’t be blocking them, and also that he is comfortable with them.

      • Sue Dahms
        Sue Dahms says:

        I believe that Pope Francis is simply trying to distinguish between gay unions and heterosexual unions. I, in no way, see this as supportive of such unions. I think you went too far. And now good Catholics everywhere will have to pay the price by listening to more pope-bashing rhetoric.

  3. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    Based on this it would be logical for Francis as a next step to instruct his cardinals and bishops to stop opposing state authorized civil unions. Stop wasting money on a lost cause and use it to help the poor – which is an instruction from Christ.
    I think this quibbling over language is an historic Vatican dodge. It is like confession and contraception. The hierarchy are trying to get out of the battle by gradually backing away from the issue. The rule is on the books, but it is to be walked away from as happened politically in the US where some same sex couples have had multiple nuptial events as the laws changed state by state until the Supreme Court said let us face reality and move forward in the name of love and get out of peoples bedrooms..

  4. Larry
    Larry says:

    But what is a civil union? If it legally conveys all the rights and obligations of a civil marriage then the verbiage is just annoying. I can see the wiggle room wherein some countries will make civil unions “less than” and the Pope will be just fine with that. Again, Francis muddies the waters but not being absolutely clear about what he means. And the other stuff about gender ideology is just trash. He really can’t be that dense.

  5. Fred Sarno
    Fred Sarno says:

    If the Pope considers “civil unions” to be acceptable, what is his view on those who enter into them attending Mass, volunteering in church, or being employed by the Church? His comments to not change the policy that such people be fired from jobs.

  6. sluhdeacon
    sluhdeacon says:

    The Pope’s seeming support of civil unions does not equate such unions with marriage. Therefore, he continues to uphold chastity as the norm for all relationships outside of the married state.

  7. Allen Boedeker
    Allen Boedeker says:

    Does Pope Francis’ acknowledgement of same sex unions equate to his support of them?
    I do not see that as a logical following.


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