New Ways Ministry Praises Pope’s Support for Civil Unions, Seeks Same Recognition in Church

The following is a statement from Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, in response to Pope Francis announcing his support for civil unions that recognize same-gender couples.

New Ways Ministry gratefully welcomes Pope Francis’ latest support for civil unions for same-gender couples.  It is an historic moment when the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, long seen as a persecutor of LGBTQ people, moves in such a supportive direction for lesbian/gay couples and their families.  It signals that the church is continuing to develop more positively its approach to LGBTQ issues.

At the same time, we urge Pope Francis to apply the same kind of reasoning to recognize and bless these same unions of love and support within the Catholic Church, too. Since the pope framed his support for civil unions by saying that same-gender couples are “right to be a part of the family,” it would not be a long stretch for him to do so.

Bishops, priests, and theologians in the German-speaking church have been making strong calls for blessing same-gender couples for several years now. The Synodal Way process in Germany may issue its support of recognizing and blessing these unions in the church early next year.

Pope Francis support for full civil marriage rights, beyond civil unions, is needed, too. Traditionally Catholic nations have one-by-one been passing civil union and marriage equality laws for a while now.  Among them: Argentina, Austria. Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ireland, Malta, Mexico (in part), Portugal, Spain, and Uruguay. Such recognition shows that overwhelming majorities of Catholic citizens support legal protections for same-gender couples.

While this is certainly the pope’s strongest statement in support of civil unions, he has hinted at support for such legal recognition at least twice before. Before his election as pope in 2013, while archbishop in Argentina, Francis endorsed civil unions as an alternative to the movement for marriage equality. In a 2017 interview as pope, he gave tacit approval, saying rather than marriage, the relationships of same-gender couples should be referred to as civil unions. (For a chronology of ALL Pope Francis’ statements and actions on LGBTQ issues, click here.)

The pope’s statement could have a great impact on an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case, Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia, in which the rights of legally married lesbian and gay couples to adopt or foster children from Catholic social service agencies is at issue. If the pope supports such couples, what should prevent lower-level Catholic officials from doing so.

This statement will have an effect beyond church discussions and legal debates. When the pope says something positive about LGBTQ issues, he sends forth an enormous wave of goodwill to LGBTQ people, and, at the same time, teaches a positive lesson to people whose anti-LGBTQ views are religiously-based.  It is no overstatement to say that with this statement not only has the pope protected LGBTQ couples and families, but he also will save many LGBTQ lives.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 22, 2020

11 replies
  1. Michael Brinkschröder
    Michael Brinkschröder says:

    Regarding the adoption case it might be interesting to know that Catholic adoption agencies in Germany support same-sex couples as adopting parents if the biological parent(s) don’t object to it. I was surprised to find this out, because it was never made public in German media.
    Btw. the Synodal Way in Germany will not come to a conclusion before the beginning of 2022 (not next year as the article says).

  2. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    A first step forward . I am trying very hard not to be cynical now, but just waiting for the step backward to happen. In the meanwhile, Alleluia !

  3. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    This is good news. And a counter to statements issued by some right-wing bishops in some countries (Poland for example) condemning same gender relationships with horrific and hateful words.

  4. Vincent Couling
    Vincent Couling says:

    “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God. You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.” These words of Pope Francis surely have profound implications for gay and lesbian Church employees who enter into same-sex unions. The deplorable frequency with which such people have been fired is shameful. There are also implications for the USCCB “religious liberty” committee, which has a dark history of supporting restrictions on the civil rights of LGBT folk. Let us see whether the US bishops echo Pope Francis’ sentiments … what will it take to break their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh instead?

  5. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    Now we can see if the Pope will fully instruct his bishops. They had no slowness about enforcing the Ritzinger letter removing any support of LGBT individuals. I hope they will remove the restrictions about LGBT couples in civil marriages with similar speed.

    • Carolyn
      Carolyn says:

      Yes, this is the sad part, that many Bishops, priests (too many), far right militant Catholics, etc. are/will continue to ignore the Pope’s directives for the LGBTQ issues.

  6. Vernon Smith
    Vernon Smith says:

    Good news, indeed! So glad he finally said something like this as Pope, to move the needle forward a bit. To echo Vincent’s comments above about church workers being fired . . . the Pope’s statements can now serve to throw a pastoral blanket over the raging flames caused by local bishops and schools firing church workers and teachers. If gay people should have access to civil laws protecting them as families (“you can’t kick someone out” or “make their lives miserable”), then the only moral, pastoral conclusion one can draw from his words is that it is wrong to fire and kick out our church workers for seeking those same essential protections thru civil marriage. We should raise our moral voices to the bishops to stop the cruel firings. We should not focus our energy as much on losing those cases in civil courts, who will just uphold the firings per ” religious liberty” blah blah blah. No, those firing cases should never even get to the courts. We can fix this by focusing our energy on our fellow Catholics in the pews. We need to encourage the people to underscore Pope Francis’ words to our “leaders,” and remind them of their hypocrisy and pressure them to change their ways to New Ways! (Couldn’t resist the activist pun! I guess this news got me riled up!) Local bishops cannot squirm around and save face so easily with the public any more, given Francis’ statement.

  7. Teresa
    Teresa says:

    It will be interesting to see, how, if at all, this might affect legally married employees who were fired from Catholic institutions because they entered into a same-sex legal marriage.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] of gay rights within the Catholic community, such as Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, cheered the pope’s words because it reversed earlier Vatican […]

  2. […] of gay rights within the Catholic community, such as Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, cheered the pope’s words because it reversed earlier Vatican statements […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *