In a new documentary out today, Pope Francis makes a rather surprising statement in which he expresses support for civil unions for same-sex couples, giving them legal rights no matter what the Catholic Church says about them.
The Catholic News Agency reports that the remarks appear in the documentary Francesco, focused on the “life and ministry” of the pope.
“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,” Pope Francis said in the film, of his approach to pastoral care.
“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” the pope said. “I stood up for that.”
That’s a shift from what the pope’s predecessors have said in the past, when they opposed just about everything related to LGBTQ rights. In that sense, the pope’s comments fall in line with what he said several years ago about gay people: “Who am I to judge?”
But don’t let the support for civil unions take away from the pope’s actions. He has spent his life opposing those very same rights.
In 2010, while he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis opposed efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. While Sergio Rubin, the future pope’s biographer, suggested that Francis supported the idea of civil unions as a way to prevent the wholesale adoption of same-sex marriage in Argentina, Miguel Woites, director of the Argentinian Catholic news outlet AICA, dismissed in 2013 that claim as false.
Saying that same-sex couples should have civil rights now, long after gay people and their allies had to fight for them, is really the least he could do at this point, and it doesn’t go nearly far enough. As we heard time and time again when states were offering civil unions to same-sex couples as an alternative to marriage equality, separate but equal is not equal.
Remember: The pope still oversees a religious institution that believes it’s absolutely a sin to act on one’s homosexuality even if being gay isn’t a sin by itself. The Catholic Church loves gay people… as long as they remain celibate and never get married.
Treating them with respect and dignity should be a given. The pope isn’t shocking the world by doing the bare minimum.
Let’s keep going: This is the same pope who said in his pre-pope days that same-sex adoption was a form of discrimination against children. In 2010, he also urged religious leaders to pray against the legalization of same-sex marriage in Argentina because it would “seriously damage the family.”
This is the same guy who stands behind the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says homosexual acts are “intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law” and believes homosexual “tendencies” are “objectively disordered.”
This is the same guy who rejects the very idea of being transgender and says the notion that people can change their genders on a whim — which is not how being trans works — is “ideological colonization.” A document released by the Vatican last year even denounced the concept of gender fluidity.
Pope Francis can say God loves gay people, and that same-sex couples should be permitted to have civil unions, without necessarily being a hypocrite. But the media should never let that be the end of the story. God’s love toward LGBTQ people, according to Catholic doctrine, is conditional. If God “loves your children as they are,” then according to Catholic doctrine, God’s love expires the moment they choose to get married to someone of the same sex or act on their normal sexual desires.
If not for the Catholic Church, maybe the pope could actually accept LGBTQ people instead of constantly deciding where the line ought to be drawn.
(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)