Pope Francis defends the right to civil union for same-sex couples

“Homosexual people have the right to be with their family. They are children of God,” Pope Francis said in a documentary presented Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival.

On Wednesday, Pope Francis defended gay couples’ rights very explicitly, “children of God” to live in a “civil union” law that protects them.

“Homosexual people have the right to be with their family. They are children of God, they have the right to have a family,” declared the Argentine pontiff in a documentary presented on Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival. “What is needed is a civil union law, they have the right to be legally covered. I defended that,” he underlined in this documentary entitled “Francesco” and directed by Evgeny Afineevsky.

According to his biographer Austen Ivereigh, Jorge Bergoglio, the future Pope, had defended the merits of this legal protection when he was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires, in the context of a heated debate in 2010 in his country on the legalization of Gay marriages.

Since his election as Pope, Francis had already mentioned on several occasions, without rejecting it, the notion of civil unions for people of the same sex.

In the two-hour documentary unveiled Wednesday, which retraces the highlights of his first seven years of pontificate and uses undated interviews with the Pope, Francis pleads with unprecedented precision and greater freedom of tone in favor of this type of ‘civil unions’.

Testimony of a Catholic homosexual

In the film, his statements in Spanish follow the testimony of a Catholic homosexual, Andrea Rubera, father of three, who asked him in a letter whether they should attend his Church. The Pope then called him to advise him to be transparent about his choice of life in his parish and bring his children there.

The Sovereign Pontiff has shown openness to homosexuals, regularly asserting that they should be greeted with respect in Catholic parishes and advising parents not to reject them.

“If a person is gay and seeks the Lord with goodwill, who am I to judge them?” The Pope said on the plane bringing him back from his first trip to Brazil in July 2013.

This little phrase marked Francis’s pontificate, who received many homosexuals in private audience, provoking the ire of the most conservative branch of the Church.

However, he remains firmly opposed to their “marriage”, in line with the Church’s dogma.

“Let’s say it as it is: marriage is a man and a woman. That is the precise term. Let’s call same-sex union “civil union,” Pope Francis said in a book of interviews conducted by French sociologist Dominique Wolton, published in 2017.

The Pope’s plea, however, highlights an unequivocal advance compared to an official document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the guardian of dogma at the Vatican) of 2003, which opposed “a legal recognition of homosexual unions,” noted by many observers of the Vatican on Wednesday.

This charge was signed at the time by its leader, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. “To legally recognize same-sex unions or to equate them with marriage would mean not only approving deviant behavior, and therefore making it a model in today’s society, but also masking fundamental values which belong to the common heritage of humanity,” he concludes.

In 2014, Mgr Bruno Forte, who was then secretary-general of an important synod (assembly of bishops) on the family, pleaded for legal recognition of gay couples, on condition that a “terminology” is used that is distinct from that of heterosexual unions.

“It is clear to me that the human beings involved in different experiments have rights which must be protected,” he declared at the time, referring to “respect for the dignity of persons”. This idea, dear in particular to the progressive branch of the German episcopate, had not, however, been retained as a final proposal of the bishops.

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