Is Pope Francis’ endorsement of same-sex civil unions politically motivated?
- On March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named Pope Francis, the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Before his papacy, he served as archbishop of Buenos Aires and cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in Argentina.
- Pope Francis’ views have been noted to be “progressive” as he has made comments welcoming homosexuality, accepting the Big Bang theory along with creationism, offered a “year of mercy” for the “sin of abortion,” and encouraging breastfeeding in public.
- On October 21, the Pope stated his support for civil union between same-sex couples, changing the trajectory of traditionalism in the Catholic church.
- Wednesday, the documentary, Francesco, aired displaying Pope Francis’ comments on homosexuality. “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it… What we have to create is a civil union law.”
- Although the Pope has made remarks regarding homosexuality in the past, critics doubt whether his comments in the documentary are to be taken seriously.
Pope Francis’ remarks about same-sex marriage were absolutely political, given that they go directly against the beliefs that he is supposed to represent and preach. In the recently released film Francesco, the Pope argued that same-sex couples ought to have the same rights as all individuals because “...they are children of God and have a right to a family.” Admittedly, this statement represents the Christian faith in implying that God is the ultimate judge in all matters. However, the Bible explicitly condemns same-sex marriage, so the Pope’s comments contradict what he should be teaching.
Austen Ivereigh, the author of Francis’ biography, added that the Pope “was always opposed to marriage being for same-sex couples.” Yet, he has advocated for civil unions for legal protections. This is fine for some from a moral standpoint; however, it adds to the contradictory nature of Pope Francis’ opinion given that the Bible also discusses following the law of the land, which, in many parts of Europe, still prohibits same-sex marriage.
His recent comments also go against the church itself. In 2003, the Vatican declared that “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.” In 2013, Francis wrote in his book “On Heaven and Earth” that considering heterosexual and homosexual relationships as the same is “an anthropological regression.”
Yet years later, he has taken a more progressive stance on the issue, which has naturally caused opposition, with conservatives claiming that “while secular civil unions are one thing, a church blessing of them is quite another.”
Pope Francis' choice to support same-sex civil unions reinforces his previous progressive views on the topic. He has voiced moral support for gay people since 2013 when he said that 'the key of the Church is to welcome, not exclude.' However, this is the first time he may be taking a step forward in affecting actual policy that may be holding same-sex marriage back. Francis' decision to support these unions opposes the Catholic Church's 2003 document stating that the Church 'cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.'
When Pope Francis lived in Argentina in 2010, the country was closing in on legalizing gay marriage. During that time, Pope Francis voiced his support for the idea of civil unions. Further, in 2018, the Pope met Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of child abuse in Chile who also happens to be gay. The Pope told him that 'God made you like this. God loves you like this.' His firm, long-standing views on the topic prove that he is not just choosing a side for political gain.
Finally, in 2014, Pope Francis stated that allowing these unions will provide partners with more adequate health care rights and enforce equal rights in general for same-sex couples. While a civil union is a bit different from marriage, the Pope believes that these unions will allow same-sex couples to live secure lives without being discriminated against by the law. Francis' statement that 'homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family' affirms this.