Elton John, “Two Popes” Actor, Global Activists, and More Respond to Pope’s Civil Union Support

Elton John

Responses to Pope Francis’ support for civil unions that recognize same-gender couples have continued to be posted online through media interviews, social media posts, and statements these last few weeks. Today’s post features a round-up of these reactions, with links provided for further reading.

Openly gay pop star Elton John posted a “thank you” to Pope Francis on Instagram, writing, in part:

My civil union and subsequent marriage to @davidfurnish has brought us immeasurable happiness and security. Giving your blessing to same sex civil unions is a major step towards equality, and a foundation for which countless others can enjoy the same protections and happiness. God bless you 🙏🏻 #LoveIsTheCure”

Jonathan Pryce, who played Pope Francis in the 2019 film Two Popes, commented to Express and Star:

“[The [pope] cleverly took his time. I think if he went in, tried to throw all the furniture out and say ‘I’m going to completely change things’ at the beginning, I think he would have met a lot more opposition than he has done now. . .I think it’s a great thing he’s done and, you know, he’s bided his time. That’s all I’m sure he always wanted to do and knew what he needed to do.'”

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SL, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, told Mother Jones that the pope’s comments might help stop the firing of LGBTQ church workers:

“‘My experience is that most schools don’t want to fire their gay teachers, even if they’re married or in a civil union, but they’re afraid of the bishop. . .Now, with the Pope’s statement about supporting civil unions, that will give the administrators more courage to not pressure those applicants who are LGBT to be silent.'”

Fired church workers Aaron Bianco and Margie Winters expressed cautious optimism to Mother JonesWinters said she was “really excited,” adding:

“‘It’s wonderful that the rhetoric is becoming more positive, but I think it’s only a step. . .It’s still an exclusion as well.'”

Patrick Hornbeck, a Fordham University theologian who is in a same-gender marriage (and recently wrote a piece for Bondings 2.0 on how the pope’s comments could impact the Supreme Court case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia), told The Washington Post:

“‘As long as the Catholic Church continues to treat the lives and loves of LGBT people as short of the divine plan for humanity, people who are LGBT will always have second-class status.'”

Jennifer O’Malley, a lesbian Roman Catholic Womanpriest, told Spectrum News 1:

“‘What does his statement mean? It’s meaningless without the recognition of marriage. . .I recognize that some people will find hope in his tone. But they’re just empty words and that little bit of hope will be crushed when there’s no systematic change.'”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, told CBS Baltimore:

“‘I think when the pope speaks, he doesn’t give orders as much as sets the tone for other church leaders. So that means that LGBTQ, lesbian and gay couples with families and parishes are going to be so much more comfortable and accepted into parish of life.'”

Cris Serra, coordinator of the National Network of LGBT Catholic Groups and Catholic Diversity in Brazil, told al Khaleej Today:

“‘It is the first time that I have heard from the highest authority of the Church that we have families. That’s a big deal. . .People were very surprised, in a good way, very happy. It was very positive because people work within the church, in welcoming, in witnessing. It’s a breath, right?'”

Fr. José María Olaizola, SJ, a Spanish priest-sociologist, was quoted in Novena News as saying:

“‘Our task is not to tell homosexual people what to do in their civil life, but to facilitate their belonging in the Church. For the record, I do not minimise the worth of what the Pope has said. What I believe is that more Church people need to speak out even more so that the Pope can come to say more.'”

Fr. Bernard Lynch, a gay priest who is a longtime LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS advocate, spoke with RTE, commenting:

“I wonder how far he’s going to go. I mean, the teachings are still the same, that we are disordered in our nature and evil in our love…Does that subsume that teaching that we are evil in our love? That’s the question I have for the pope.”

Michael McQueen, co-chair of OUT Catholics of Philadelphia, told WHYY:

“‘I think it’s a very radical step and I think it starts at that basis of the dignity of the human person … and I really believe that as the church honors the dignity of the human person and sees the image of God in every person no matter what their sexual orientation, their gender identity, that we’ll see the theology slowly come along with that. . .But for now, I think this is a tremendous step coming from the Holy Father.'”

For Bondings 2.0’s complete coverage of Pope Francis’ remarks on civil unions, the controversy surrounding them, and more reactions, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 27, 2020

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