LGBTQ and Catholic Advocates Worldwide Praise Pope Francis’ Support for Civil Unions

Sr. Jeannine Gramick

Today’s post is part of Bondings 2.0‘s ongoing coverage of Pope Francis’ support for civil unions that recognize same-gender couples and reactions to it. For previous reports and commentaries, see the bottom of this post.

LGBTQ advocates are praising Pope Francis for his most recent statement in support of civil unions recognizing same-gender couples.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SL, co-founder of New Ways Ministry praised the pope for his inclusive words, calling them a “step in the right direction,” according to the National Catholic Reporter:

“‘This is wonderful news for the LGBT community and for their families,’ said Jeannine Gramick, a Sister of Loretto who has been involved in a pastoral ministry for lesbian and gay Catholics since 1971. ‘What Pope Francis is telling us is that lesbian and gay people are part of families. He’s holding up family values and this is so important.’

“Gramick told NCR that the pope’s comments were in response to a ‘beautiful letter’ from a gay couple who wrote to him inquiring how they should raise their children and live as a married couple in a church that ultimately does not accept their marriage.

“‘You are a normal family. You have to do what Catholics do,’ was effectively the pope’s response, she said in describing the context. . .

“[Gramick said:] ‘I am elated that Pope Francis is making this public statement. He’s speaking from his heart. If we let our heart speak, then our minds will be changed. We have to lead from the heart and that’s what he’s doing.'”

Lisa Fullam, a moral theologian and contributor to Bondings 2.0, told NCR that people “saw this as a change of teaching, even though the pope has spoken this way in the past.” But Fullam cautioned against attributing too much weight to Francis’ interview, which is not a papal teaching document, and raised the potential that there are downsides to the pope’s affirmation of civil unions. To read her full commentary on Bondings 2.0, click here.

Ruby Almeida, right, with Wendell Rodricks, left, with Cardinal Oswald Gracias

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics released a statement from co-chairs Chris Vella and Ruby Almeida. Vella described the pope’s words as “to some extent, ground-breaking,” but cautioned that the film’s contents must be seen to understand what exactly the pope said. Almeida commented:

“The many negative and destructive condemnatory statements recently made by several US and Polish Bishops about the LGBTIQ communities have left our communities hurt and violated. So, this is good news indeed.”

But Vella was clear that civil unions were not enough, and LGBTQ Catholics worldwide still seek a church that “celebrates their relationships as sacred and sacramental signs of God’s manifest love and presence in the world.”

Fr. James Martin, SJ

Fr. James Martin, SJ, also set the pope’s comments in a more global context. Calling it a “historic” moment, Martin wrote on Facebook:

“For those who think the Pope Francis’s comments about same-sex civil unions today are no big deal: Perhaps that may seem true in some parts, and to some people, in the US or Western Europe. But in places like Poland, where some bishops are virulently anti-LGBT, have called LGBTQ people the ‘rainbow plague’ and compared them to Nazis; or in places like Uganda, where many bishops side with repressive laws criminalizing homosexuality; it’s a very big deal. We always need to remember how this will be ‘received’ by the worldwide church. So again, a big deal.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said the organization was “cautiously optimistic” while it awaits to see the full film and context in which the pope’s remarks are made. Duddy-Burke commented in a statement:

“If true, the Pope’s comments could represent an international game-changer and a major step forward for LGBTQI equality. It would remove a key obstacle to LGBTQI inclusion in many places around the world, especially in areas where LGBTQI people are especially vulnerable to discrimination and violence. Civil unions laws can provide essential legal protections to LGBTQI couples and their children. . .Already, Catholics in many parts of the world have moved beyond the official Church, and have fully embraced LGBTQI people, their families, and marriage equality in their communities. We hope and pray that Catholic officials will follow their example.”

The Wijngaard Institute for Catholic Research called for “Pope Francis to kick-start a process to revise current official Catholic teaching and practice so that his latest overtures towards acceptance are transformed into concrete change,” noting that while the pope’s informal remarks are welcoming, official church teaching continues to do harm.

JR Zerkowski, executive director of Fortunate Families, told NCR he was “delighted” with the pope’s words, which are “nothing outside of Catholic social teaching.” Zerkowski added, “Shocking as it is, it’s sort of not shocking as well.”

Aaron Bianco, a gay theology professor who was once forced out of pastoral work due to anti-LGBTQ attacks by fellow Catholics, told Gay City News :

“It is a colossal step for the pontiff to endorse civil unions. In doing so, he shows that he, and in turn, the Church, are looking for ways to be a welcoming place for all LGBT Catholics. All Catholics should applaud this advancement.”

More secular voices also weighed in on the pope’s remarks. Samantha Power, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted:

“Time will tell, but I believe that Pope Francis’s support for same-sex unions will ultimately have a profound impact on how gays and lesbians are treated around the world. The Pope’s views, heard by the over 1 billion Catholics worldwide, have incredible power.”

Luz Elena Aranda, co-secretary general of ILGA World, told Reuters that the group knows “how life-changing it will be for tens of millions of LGBTI persons worldwide – both LGBTI Catholics themselves and those living in traditionally Catholic societies – to hear him recognising us and our right to a family.”

Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations and a Catholic, said through a spokesperson that the pope’s words were a “very positive move,” adding, “The Secretary-General has spoken out very forcefully against homophobia in favor of LGBTQ rights, that people should never persecuted or discriminated against just for who they love.”

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called the pope’s words a “significant step,” but said HRC would “continue to push the Catholic Church, and all religious leaders, to fully embrace LGBTQ people and endorse marriage equality for same-sex couples, our right to have families, and to be full members of our faith communities.”

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 24, 2020

Bondings 2.0’s Coverage of Pope Francis & Civil Unions

October 21, 2020: “New Ways Ministry Praises Pope’s Support for Civil Unions, Seeks Same Recognition in Church

October 22, 2020: “In New Film, Pope Francis Declares Support for Civil Unions to Protect LGBTQ Families

October 22, 2020: “The Good and the Bad of Pope Francis’ Support for Civil Unions

October 23, 2020: “LGBTQ and Catholic Advocates Worldwide Praise Pope Francis’ Support for Civil Unions

October 24, 2020: “Exuberant Praise for Pope Francis from One Bishop, But from Others, Not So Much

October 26, 2020: “While Some Continue to Laud Pope’s Support for Civil Unions, Others Have a Different View

October 27, 2020: “Fr. James Alison: Support for Civil Unions Reveals Deeper Truth About Pope Francis

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