Pope Francis greets people as he leaves after the weekly general audience, at the Vatican, October 21, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Same-sex couples deserve legal protections through civil unions, Pope Francis said in new documentary called Francesco.” Filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, who is gay, asked Francis about the place of LGBT Catholics in the church. 

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” the pope said. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it.” While previously serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages, but had never done so in papacy until recently.

Dignity USA, an organization focused on LGBT rights and the Catholic Church, said it was “cautiously optimistic” about the development. “If true, the pope’s comments could represent an international game-changer and a major step forward for LGBTQI equality,” the organization’s executive director said. The Human Rights Campaign said in a statement, “By shifting Catholic theology in a more inclusive direction and making clear that LGBT people have a right to their own families, Pope Francis is letting LGBT Catholics know that being a person of faith and being LGBT are not mutually exclusive.” The organization added that it would continue to push religious leaders to fully embrace LGBT people and endorse marriage equality.

Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit priest and close ally of Francis, said the pope’s statements “in no way affects doctrine.” Bill Donohue, president of the U.S.-based Catholic League, called the remarks a form of pastoral outreach and stated it would not change doctrine. Francis’ call for civil union laws represents a shift compared to his predecessors. In 2003, the Vatican taught that the “legal recognition” of LGBT marriages should not take place.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Pope Francis endorses same-sex civil unions for the first time ever – Vox – 10/21/2020
Though far from a direct commentary on US politics, the pope’s words are also sure to get attention among Catholic voters with the election less than two weeks away. He may have stopped short of advocating that the church sanctify same-sex marriages, but his remarks were still groundbreaking, especially coming from a popular religious leader.

Pope Francis Calls for Civil Unions for Same-Sex Couples – National Review – 10/21/2020
“What we have to create is a civil union law,” he added. “That way, they are legally covered. I stood up for that.” Francis’ comments, which are likely to be seen by many Catholics as controversial, are reflective of his own views, and not an indication that the church will change its teachings on same-sex relationships.

Pope Francis Blesses Same Sex Unions, Still No to Marriage – The Daily Beast – 10/21/2020
The Catholic Church does not approve of same sex marriage, sticking instead to traditional doctrine that states marriage and sex can only be blessed for the purpose of procreation. But the new line on civil union laws is the farthest the pontiff—who once appeared on the cover of The Advocate magazine after answering, “Who am I to judge,” when asked about a devout gay priest—has gone on the issue.

Pope Francis Declares Support for Civil Unions for Gay Couples – Reason – 10/21/2020
This does not change the Catholic Church’s official teachings or position on same-sex relationships. In just a couple of weeks, the Supreme Court will be hearing a case about whether a Catholic foster agency can refuse to place children in the homes of same-sex couples. Nevertheless, Pope Francis openly revealing his support for legal recognition for same-sex couples, even if it’s not called “marriage,” is a significant cultural shift and an indicator of how much the Overton window on LGBT policies has been moved.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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