Editors’ Note: The article referenced in this article appeared in its original publication before news broke on November 2nd that the Vatican issued a “clarification” about Pope Francis’ comments on civil unions. While the Vatican’s explanation did not alter the fact that the pope stated his support for civil unions for same-gender couples, readers should know that any comments made below were made without knowledge of the Vatican’s explanations.
Yayo Grassi, a gay friend of Pope Francis, said he was “not surprised at all” by news that the pope had reiterated support for civil unions recognizing same-gender couples, calling it a “seismic movement” in the church.
The Washington Blade reported that Grassi made the comments in an interview:
“‘I was not surprised at all. . .To me it was like a natural consequence of the things that he’s done.’
“Grassi told the Blade that Francis’ comments represent a ‘seismic movement within the church, but it also started with a very gentle wave’ in 2013 when he said gay men and lesbians should not be judged or marginalized.
“‘Several years ago, something like that was almost seen like a tsunami,’ said Grassi. ‘Now we see that it really was just a gentle wave, that the tsunamis are coming little by little, that every wave that he sends out makes this movement much, much greater and difficult to walk back.'”
Grassi added that supporting civil unions was “an affirmation of everything that I know about him,” even if the pope would never endorse equal marriage rights. Grassi has previously said then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires denied making reported harsh anti-marriage equality comments during Argentina’s 2008 debate on the issue. Bergoglio told Grassi his words were “distorted” by the media. Grassi expanded in The Blade interview:
“'[Then-Cardinal Bergoglio] said it is not a religious law that is being debated, it is a civil law so therefore the church has nothing to do with it. . .That was when he told me that you’re coming here and I know you. . .We have been friends for so long. Who am I to judge you? Why would I judge you?'”
Grassi has a longstanding relationship with Francis which began when the future pope taught Grassi in high school in Argentina, and Grassi has said the pope knew Grassi was gay. In September 2015, during the pope’s apostolic visit to the U.S., he met with Grassi and his male partner, welcoming them warmly. The following year, during a New Ways Ministry event, Grassi said Francis had explicitly told him previously, “In my pastoral work, there is no place for homophobia.”
The dissonance between Pope Francis’ writings and his public remarks and actions on LGBTQ issues has made his record complex. But what Grassi re-affirms is that this pope has indeed moved the conversation forward when it comes to LGBTQ equality. Francis’ comments on civil unions are but the latest step.
For a full chronology of Pope Francis’ record on LGBTQ issues, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 3, 2020