In a documentary film that premiered on Wednesday, Pope Francis expressed support for same-sex civil unions by claiming that they should receive legal coverage. This is a big step for the church in its recognition of gay people.
“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” said Pope Francis in the documentary, “Francesco,” which debuted at the Rome Film Festival. He feels very strongly that gay people are the children of God. He exclaims that “[He] stood up for that.”
With this support he expressed for same-sex civil unions, there were, of course, conservative critics within the church hierarchy, who have, in the past and especially now, accused him of diluting church doctrines and reversing of the church teachings.
“The pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the longstanding teaching of the church about same-sex unions,” said Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I.
A Jesuit priest, and close ally of Francis, said that the remark “in no way affects doctrine,” the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, told the television channel of the Italian bishops conference on Wednesday evening.
Francis generally supports same-sex civil unions, which have been permitted within recent years for very traditionally Catholic nations such as Italy, Ireland, and Argentina. Evgeny Afineevsky, the director of the documentary, told The New York Times that Pope Francis had made sure to tell him about his thoughts/support for civil unions for the documentary.
“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” said Pope Francis, in the documentary. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”
It is important to note that Pope Francis supports same-sex civil unions, but he unwaveringly supports the Church doctrine that states that marriage is between a man and a woman.
According to the Washington Post’s opinion piece by Eve Tushnet, “His ongoing support for civil unions has been as an alternative to gay marriage, not a bridge toward it.”
Furthermore, according to the Washington Post article previously mentioned, previous statements made by Pope Francis include in 2018, similar to the documentary, said “that [gay] son and daughter has a right to family...Do not throw them out of [the] family.” In 2013, he famously asked, “If [gay people] accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?” And in 2016, the pope said the church owes gay people an apology.
In 2003, under Pope John Paul II, the church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its doctrinal watchdog then led by the future Pope Benedict XVI, issued “considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons.”
The document read, “The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”