In a rather astonishing admission, the Pope told an Italian newspaper that while “marriage is between a man and a woman,” he might be okay with civil unions for gay couples.
In an interview with the large Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis talked about why the secular state has a need for civil unions, and seemed to hint that he might, under some circumstances, accept them himself.
Here’s what the Pope said, first in Italian, then translated into English:
Q: Molti Paesi regolano le unioni civili. È una strada che la Chiesa può comprendere? Ma fino a che punto?
A: «Il matrimonio è fra un uomo e una donna. Gli Stati laici vogliono giustificare le unioni civili per regolare diverse situazioni di convivenza, spinti dall’esigenza di regolare aspetti economici fra le persone, come ad esempio assicurare l’assistenza sanitaria. Si tratta di patti di convivenza di varia natura, di cui non saprei elencare le diverse forme. Bisogna vedere i diversi casi e valutarli nella loro varietà».
Here it is in English:
Q: Many countries recognize civil unions. Is this a path the church could understand? And if so, to what extent?
A: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. The secular states uses civil unions to accomodate various arrangements of living together, driven by the need to regulate the economic relationship between people, such as ensuring health care. These are pacts of coexistence of various kinds, of which I could not identify the different forms. We have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety.”
That’s somewhat vague, but it’s not a no. And it’s coming from a Catholic pope. Even vague is rather huge when contemplating whether the church could endorse civil unions.
The Pope already had people buzzing about his earlier “who am I to judge?” comments about gay people. This latest broadside is guaranteed to make conservative heads explode.
Our own Becca Morn did a long think-piece about the Pope’s new tone. In it she wrote:
Pope Francis is not a progressive Catholic, certainly not on social policy.
Francis hasn’t proposed any changes in Church policy on gay or trans issues, contraception, or anything else. In fact, with respect to women’s reproductive freedoms, he earns a big fat goose egg from me.
Nevertheless, he’s committed numerous heresies against radical conservatism, and that should pique our interest. Radical conservatives, especially the Tea Party, do not tolerate conservative apostasy, and they’re not terribly thrilled with what Francis has been saying. Their displeasure, if anything, is proof of why we should be paying attention.
Pope Francis suggested that maybe the Church and its clergy and its allies — politicians, pundits, lobbyists, and hangers-on — shouldn’t be so focused on judging and condemning others.
Last July, he was reported as saying, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” It’s noted that unlike his predecessors (and many American Bishops) who prefer the clinically pejorative term ‘homosexual’, Francis actually used the word ‘gay’ even though the rest of what he said was in Italian….
The American Catholic Church appears to be quite comfortable with its GOP/Tea Party/Ultra-Conservative alliance. Sure, from time to time, the U.S. Bishops will make some noise in opposition to budget cuts that hurt the poor. But as I’ve said, none of their objections rise to the level of threatened withholding of Communion, Excommunication, and/or eternal damnation.
Vote to let women use a safe and legal drug — for contraception and also for other medical needs — and it’s worthy of consignment to Hell. Same thing if you merely vote for a politician you know will vote in favor of gay marriage or gay rights.
On the other hand, we now have a Pope who is saying we shouldn’t be focused on those things at all. That we, if we follow his example, shouldn’t presume to judge others. He even had harsh words for priests who refused to baptize the children of unwed mothers.
He’s not perfect by any means, but Pope Francis has already started to freak out conservative Catholics. And that by itself gives me cause for hope.