NEWS NOTES: April 17, 2014

April 17, 2014

NewsHere are some items that you might find of interest:

1) The Catholic island nation of Malta passed legislation approving civil unions for same-gender couples, according to Gay Star News.  Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna, a Maltese Catholic bishop, who had at one time spoke favorably about same-gender relationships, was one of the prime spokesperson’s for the local Catholic hierarchy opposing the new law.

2) Catholics in Spain are strongly in support of that nation’s marriage equality law, which was enacted in 2005, according to a new survey.  West-Info.eu  reported on the survey which also noted that in two Catholic nations where same-gender marriage is not legal, the majority of believers oppose such a policy:  in Italy, 66%;  in Poland, 78%.

Mother Teresa

3) Mother Teresa is featured on the website for the United Nations’ Free and Equal program which supports non-discrimination for LGBT people around the globe.  When one clicks on her image on the homepage, one is brought to a photo of Mother Teresa under the headline “Mother Teresa Helps Us to Remember What’s Important.”   Superimposed over her photo is a quote from the universally-revered champion of the poor:  “What can you do to promote world peace?  Go home and love your family.”  The photo with the quotation can be shared on Facebook and other social media platforms.

4) The National Catholic Reporter noted that the Vatican has appointed a bishop to investigate the sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Keith O’Brien, formerly the primate of Scotland, who resigned last year when he acknowledged sexual liaisons with men who became priests in his diocese.  O’Brien made headlines for speaking out strongly against marriage equality in Scotland.  The bishop who will be leading the investigation is Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna, mentioned in the first news note above.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Did Pope Francis Support Same-Sex Civil Unions?

March 6, 2014

Pope Francis

Pope Francis made headlines once again with another interview which has people around the globe hoping for possible change in the Catholic hierarchy’s position about lesbian and gay relationships.  But, did his words really offer such hope?

Corriere della Seraa major Italian daily, published the interview, which focused primarily on sex abuse, women, and contraception.  Yet the pope did mention the idea of civil unions in answer to a question by the interviewer, Ferruccio deBortoli, the news paper’s editor in chief.  Here is Zenit’s English translation of that section:

Editor:  Many countries have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?

Holy Father: Marriage is between one man and one woman. The secular States want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of coexistence, spurred by the need to regulate economic aspects between persons as, for instance, to ensure healthcare. Each case must be looked at and evaluated in its diversity.”

Some journalists and bloggers have reported on this statement as a ringing endorsement of civil unions.  For example, The Huffington Post reported the story:

“Pope Francis has signalled that he could see the Catholic church tolerating some forms of same-sex civil unions — though not marriage — when it comes to situations such as medical care and property for gay couples.”

And Catholic News Service stated:

“Bishops around the world have differed in their responses to civil recognition of nonmarital unions. The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family said in February 2013 that some legal arrangements are justifiable to protect the inheritance rights of nonmarried couples. But until now, no pope has indicated even tentative acceptance of civil unions.”

While true that no pope has made such a statement, further information indicates that he was not referring to same-sex civil unions.  CNN reported that the Vatican press office provided additional information which indicates that the pope was not referring to same-sex couples:

“Later on Wednesday, a Vatican spokesman sought to clarify the Pope’s remarks.

” ‘The Pope did not choose to enter into debates about the delicate matter of gay civil unions,’ said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a consultant to the Vatican press office.

” ‘In his response to the interviewer, he emphasized the natural characteristic of marriage between one man and one woman, and on the other hand, he also spoke about the obligation of the state to fulfill its responsibilities towards its citizens.’

” ‘We should not try to read more into the Pope’s words than what has been stated in very general terms,’ Rosica added.”

Rosica also noted:

“By responding in this way, Pope Francis spoke in very general terms, and did not specifically refer to same-sex marriage as a civil union. Pope Francis simply stated the issues and did not interfere with positions held by Episcopal Conferences in various countries dealing with the question of civil unions and same sex marriage.”

While I don’t always trust “clarifications” made later by spokespeople, in this case, there was a certain amount of ambiguity in the original remarks that warrant such a follow-up. First, since the pope prefaced his comments about civil unions with a statement supporting matrimony as a heterosexual institution.  So, it can seem that his support for civil unions was a support for same-sex couples.

Second, as an email correspondent has informed me, the Italian term the pope used, “unioni civili” refers to “people who are married by the state, outside of a religious context,” not to same-sex partnerships.

While I would be delighted if the pope expressed support for same-sex civil unions (and marriage, for that matter!), I’m not sure that he has done that in this interview.  As has been noted before, he did support civil unions for same-sex couples when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  Many other bishops, cardinals, and Vatican officials have also expressed support for same-sex civil unions over the past year or so.

Pope Francis certainly has gone further than any previous pope in trying to be positive towards people whose relationships are outside of the traditional heterosexual, nuclear family model, and he is to be commended for that.  More importantly, even though he did not offer a ringing endorsement of same-sex relationships, at least he is not spouting condemnatory tirades against them as his two previous predecessors did.   His refreshing new attitude still offers great hope for possibility and change in the future.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

dotCommonweal:  Francis Hints About Same-Sex Civil Unions

Slate.comDoes Pope Francis Support Gay Civil Unions?

National Catholic Reporter: Francis marks anniversary with interview on sex abuse, women, contraception

QueeringTheChurch.com:  Pope Francis Has NOT “Supported” Civil Unions – but Catholic Thinking Continues to Evolve

Advocate.com: Pope Francis Says Church Must Examine Civil Unions

Sydney Morning Herald: Pope Francis hints at Catholic Church rethink on gay civil unions

 


Being Gay is a Gift the Lord Gave Us, Says Malta’s LGBT Community

January 11, 2014

Parents of LGBT children in Malta publicly criticized Bishop Charles Scicluna for the latest in a string of anti-civil unions remarks by the bishop as Maltese residents debate a law to recognize such unions in this heavily Catholic nation. Similarly, an organization of LGBT Catholics on the island released its own statement defending the civil unions bill.

Drachma Parents, an organization which assists parents who have trouble accepting their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children, released a statement to the Times of Malta on Monday. The parents noted their sadness that Scicluna would use harmful language about LGBT people, stating:

” ‘We are very sad. We are sad that it had to come to this. Because we believe that all persons are children of God and we feel sad because we respect the Church.’ …

” ‘He resorted to mentioning the Pope – to have the Pope shoved in your face in situations like this, is sad.’ “

The bishop warned Catholic members of parliament that voting in favor of a civil unions bill currently being debated would be a “a gravely immoral act,” and has previously said Pope Francis was “shocked” at the idea of same-gender couples adopting. Undeterred, Drachma, which supports LGBT people and is a sister group to Drachma Parents, released its own statement endorsing equal legal rights for same-gender partners. Speaking as faithful Catholics, Drachma’s statement says, in part:

” We were part of the consultative council that drafted this law and we agree with civil unions and gay adoptions”…

“We were not really astonished by Scicluna’s comments: he was reproducing the teachings of the Church. And even Pope Francis never formally went against the teachings of the Church – more than the content, he changed the tone”…

“Homosexuality, [Drachma's spokesman] said, is not a curse. ‘It’s a gift which the Lord gave us so that we can contribute to the Church in a different manner.’

“MPs should take a decision based on what is best for the country based on facts. ‘Homosexual couples are already living together and children are already living with homosexual parents, so this is not a new structure, this is regularising their position to protect the rights of children.’ “

Civil unions may soon be legal in Malta, and Bishop Scicluna would do well to listen to Drachma Parents and Drachma who simply want to be part of the Church with every member of their family’s dignity equally respected.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: October 30, 2013

October 30, 2013

News NotesHere are some items that you might find of interest:

1)  The Tablet reported that Australian former priest Greg Reynolds, whose support for same-sex marriage was reported to have been part of the reason that the Vatican laicised and and excommunicated him, has revealed that the main reason for these actions was because of an incident where a piece of host was given to a dog as part of a liturgical service at the “Inclusive Catholics” community that Reynolds established after he resigned the priesthood in May 2011.

2) The ministry and mission of Dignity/San Antonio was profiled on MySanAntonio.com.   Members from this Texas chapter of DignityUSA, a national organization for LGBT Catholics, are reported as being cautiously hopeful about Pope Francis’ recent positive comments about lesbian and gay people.  “Personally, I felt encouraged by it. I think we’re all hopeful because it’s a significant change in tone,” said Chris, a gay man and Dignity leader. “But we’re also not naïve to think it represented substantive change.”

3)  A priest in Worcester, Massachusetts, who this past summer cut parish ties to the Worcester Art Museum because they started renting their facility for same-sex wedding ceremonies, has  admitted to embezzling almost a quarter of a million dollars from his parish and school, reported Justice For All.

4)  The Catholic hierarchy and conservative politicians in Peru, a heavily Catholic nation, are opposing a recently introduced national bill to establish civil unions for lesbian and gay couples, reported HispanicallySpeakingNews.com.  The bill will be debated by the nation’s congress in March of next year.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Malta Bishop Apologizes to Lesbian and Gay People While Opposing Civil Unions’ Bill

October 28, 2013

Bishop Charles Scicluna

A Catholic bishop from Malta made a surprising statement on a popular television talk show in that country when he apologized over the airways for the hurt that Catholic leaders have caused lesbian and gay people.

Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna appeared on “Xarabank,” hosted by Peppi Azzopardi, to discuss that nation’s civil unions bill, which the Catholics bishop there oppose, in part because it would allow lesbian and gay couples to adopt children.  The Malta Independent reported on the bishop’s words, which were in response to comments from gay couples who were guests on the show who :

“The bishop was confronted by gay couples who refuse to understand why the Church continues to make obstacles for them to have same rights as heterosexual couples.

“Scicluna did not mince his words and, while holding his ground on the teachings of the Church that marriage should be exclusive to the union between men and women, he made a historical statement by asking the gay community for forgiveness for each time those representing the Church made their (gays) life miserable and harder.”

His apology received applause from the gay guests and the studio audience.  Bishop Scicluna’s apology, while a good step, is not to be confused with strong support for lesbian and gay people.  Just last week, he published a letter opposing the civil unions bill in The Times of Malta  In the letter, he stated:

“In a nutshell marriage is for the family. It is not simply a socially recognised partnership. The proposed bill intends to put all this behind us in the name of the asserted equality of same sex (homosexual) couples to couples of different sex (heterosexual) couples.

“This asserted equality is a no-brainer when we deal with human dignity and the right to freedom from unjust discrimination. It does not stand the test of logic when it comes to the openness to the gift of parenthood.”

You can watch a video of the apology below, however the bishop and the others speak in Maltese.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeTJzfGUdc0

This is not the first time that Bishop Scicluna has made headlines with statements critical of a doctrinaire approach to lesbian and gay people.  In February of this year, he criticized a public letter by a Catholic man who said that lesbian and gay people can only experience lust, and not love.  Scicluna refuted the letter writer, saying that was not the teaching of the church.

Bondings 2.0 recently questioned the Maltese bishops’ opposition to the civil unions bill because they did so by quoting Pope Francis’ call for a more open attitude towards lesbian and gay people, which seemed somewhat incongruous.

The question this newer story raises is: can an apology be sincere when the bishop opposes legalizing civil unions for lesbian and gay couples?   Can someone authentically hold these two positions?    Post your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Malta’s Bishops Quote the Letter, But Not the Spirit, of Pope Francis’ Words

October 18, 2013

maltaPope Francis’ positive words about lesbian and gay people in the last few months have been used by Catholic bishops in Malta recently.  Unfortunately, the bishops quoted the pope to support their opposition to that island nation’s proposed civil unions law for lesbian and gay couples.

On the positive side, the bishops used Pope Francis’ message to encourage civility in what could become a rancorous debate.   Pink News quotes a statement, the bishops:

“First of all, we should keep in mind that through this bill we are discussing persons and their lives. Consequently, in order that this may be a mature discussion, it should reflect a profound respect towards those persons. As Pope Francis recently said referring to persons with a homosexual orientation, ‘in life God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation’.”

While the bishops’ call for civility is admirable, especially since they are following the lead from Pope Francis, it is curious that they did not follow the pope’s example of supporting civil unions when he was an archbishop in Argentina.  Instead the Maltese bishops have taken a hard-line stance, opposing their nation’s civil unions bill, not because of any sexual ethics implications, but because it would allow couples in a civil union to adopt children.   Their statement notes:

 “According to the bill, the ‘partners in a civil union’ will be given the right for child adoption. We consider such an issue of a very delicate nature similar to every issue that involves children and the child’s best interest.

“Since there are contrasting views on the issue, it seems to us that it will be wise if the legislator takes the necessary time to make the right decisions on this matter. Children should preferably be brought up by their parents, a man and a woman.

“Moreover, we ask the Members of Parliament to continue taking measures that strengthen the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman. Considering that the family constituted by the unity in the difference between a man and a woman ‘remains the first and principal builder of society’.”

In the second paragraph, the bishops seem to indicate that they recognize that this is a controversial issue, with varying opinions,  Yet, they are firmly against civil unions and they expect legislators to be so, too.   What is even more curious is that they never argue as to why and how it is better that children be raised by a heterosexual couple rather than a homosexual couple.  They state their claim as if it was accepted fact by all, which it clearly isn’t if a civil unions bill is being considered.

Helena Dalli

Helena Dalli

The bill is currently being debated by the nation’s Parliament which is also considering a bill to outlaw homophobic discrimination.  When the civil unions bill was introduced this week, Malta’s Equality Minister Helena Dalli spoke words that sound more like Pope Francis’ message than the bishops’ statement did.  Pink News reported Dalli’s comments:

“We are people before we are straight, gay, black, white or red.

“We have to move towards a society that shuns discrimination and everyone enjoys rights to live a happy life.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Belgian Cardinal and Archbishop Support Civil Unions

June 24, 2013

As we wait here in the United States for our Supreme Court to weigh in on two marriage equality cases this week,  news from across the Atlantic about Catholic support gay and lesbian couples is positive.

Cardinal Godfried Daneels

Cardinal Godfried Daneels

A Belgian archbishop and cardinal have both joined the growing list of senior Catholic Church officials who are now supporting civil unions for same-gender committed couples.  London’s Tablet magazine reported this month:

“Two of the most senior Belgian clerics have voiced support for civil unions, but said the Church would not see such a partnership as a marriage, which they said was only between a man and a woman.

“Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Brussels, made his comments through his spokesman in response to an interview by the Belgian newspaper De Tijd with his successor, Cardinal Godfried Danneels.

“In an interview to mark his 80th birthday, the cardinal told the paper it was good that states were making reforms to normalise same-sex relationships, saying it showed ‘more nuanced thinking about the person in their totality rather than being fixated on the moral principle.’ He said the recognition of gay relationships was a legal matter and not one for the Church to comment on, even though they could not constitute real marriage.

Danneels said the Church had evolved in its understanding of homosexuals.

Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard

Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard

What is significant here is not just their support, but, more importantly, Cardinal Daneels’ reasoning behind his support.  The fact that he wants a more nuanced approach to gay and lesbian relationships, and that he sees this as an issue affecting the entire person, not just sexual activity, are major steps forward for the way a Catholic leader has described this matter.

QueeringTheChurch.com’s Terence Weldon, intrepid gay Catholic blogger in the United Kingdom, cites additional information about Cardinal Daneels’ support, gleaned from an Italian news source,Chiesa Expressso.  Their account points out that Daneels’ statement is a significant departure from a 2003 Vatican statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) which repudiated any support for marriage or civil unions for lesbian and gay people:

“Ten years have passed since the publication of that document by the Ratzingerian CDF under the pontificate of Karol Wojtyla. But the contents of the ‘considerations’ cited above seem by now to belong to another ecclesial era.

“One faithful mirror of this new course are the declarations released to the press by Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, on the eve of his eightieth birthday on June 4.

“The Belgian cardinal – who without hypocrisy did not conceal his disappointment at the election of Benedict XVI at the conclave of 2005, and this year was one of the main electors of Pope Francis – stated that the Church ‘has never opposed the fact that there should exist a sort of “marriage” between homosexuals, but one therefore speaks of a “sort of’ marriage, not of true marriage between a man and a woman, therefore another word must be found for the dictionary.” ‘

“And he concluded:

” ‘About the fact that this should be legal, that it should be made legitimate through a law, about this the Church has nothing to say.’

“The Belgian newspaper ‘Le Soir,’ in reporting the words of Danneels, added that ‘the position of the cardinal is shared by Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard,” his successor as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels. The newspaper does not provide the evidence for this agreement, which in fact has been denied by Léonard’s spokesman. But there is no doubt that Danneels has effectively said, with the frankness that distinguishes him, what other cardinals and prelates have said in recent months.”

Additional quotations from Cardinal Daneels on the issue of civil unions can be found at the Gay Mystics blog.

Weldon has a very comprehensive list of all of the recent support for civil unions by senior church leaders, which can be found here.

As we have stated before, this recent development shows that Catholic leaders are in fact, if slowly, responding to the growing support that the Catholic laity are exhibiting for supporting committed gay and lesbian relationships.  May this development continue, and may the leaders continue to follow!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Australian Priest Publicly Endorses the Goodness of Same-Gender Relationships

May 7, 2013

Fr. Michael Fallon

A priest in Australia is calling for public recognition of same-gender relationship and says they should be celebrated joyfully.  While not extending this recognition to marriage, he advances the Catholic position by speaking to the goodness of these couples’ relationships.

Fr. Michael Fallon’s comments were reported in The Canberra Times:

“In a notable departure from the public teachings of some church authorities, Dickson-based priest Michael Fallon called for a ‘public celebration of committed love for homosexual couples’, saying he feared ordinary people were being driven away from the Catholic faith by views they saw as hardline and irrelevant.’…

“‘[The public should offer] not just recognition, but joy, public joy in their communion with each other, that’s the least we can offer people,’ he said.”

He credits time as university chaplain, including ministry with LGBT students, as a key step in overcoming personal homophobia. He also appeals to his academic work as a scripture scholar for his position:

“…there were church authorities who saw homosexual behaviour and partnerships as immoral, but many priests he spoke to supported recognition of committed same-sex relationships.

“He said biblical references to homosexuality should be seen within the context of the time, rather than taken literally. ‘When Paul spoke about homosexual behaviour, the key is what was he actually speaking about? Did he know about two adults lovingly committing themselves to each other? We haven’t the faintest idea, and it’s quite unlikely,’ he said.”

This Australian priest is the latest among clergy calling for legal protections of LGBT people, with several bishops supporting civil unions in recent months and other priests speaking strongly for a rethinking of the Church’s sexual ethics.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Vatican Shift on Civil Unions Is Result of a Prophetic Laity

May 1, 2013

Fr. Frederico Lombardi

Recent comments by a Vatican spokesperson are prompting many LGBT Catholic advocates to cautiously believe Rome is endorsing civil unions for same-gender couples, and some posit this shifting position is a result of lay pressure which could have concrete benefits.

According to Queering the Church, Jesuit Fr. Frederico Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokeperson, endorsed civil unions while speaking about the passage of marriage equality in France last week. Translations differ, as the original source for his comments is in Italian, but Terence Weldon provides this:

“[When] we then asked him for his evaluation of the final parliamentary approval by the French National Assembly of the anthropological revolution in the family sphere, Father Lombardi said ‘it is a good thing for a child to know it has a father and a mother’: one has to ‘clearly show that marriage between one/a man and one/a woman is a fundamental institution in the history of mankind. This does not mean that one cannot recognise in some way other forms of union between two persons.’”

The implications of Fr. Lombardi’s comments could be wide-ranging, although Weldon and others urge caution, given how heavily qualified these remarks are. Weldon continues:

“Irrespective though, of this particular incident, it is clear that change is in the air. Fr Lombardi is of course not a bishop, but he is the official spokesman for the pope, and highly respected for the skill with which he conducts his task…His response to the question will be widely interpreted as reflecting the thinking of Pope Francis himself, and will encourage many more bishops who up to now have been supportive but unwilling to speak out publicly, to do so…

“Compared with the secular shift [towards full marriage equality], Catholic bishops’ thinking has been excruciatingly slow – but compared with its usual reluctance to adapt, this shift has been equally remarkable – and once again, is a response to changes in the real world political balance.”

Francis DeBernardo and Jeannine Gramick in Seattle.

Francis DeBernardo and Jeannine Gramick

Writing for the Equally Blessed coalition, Francis DeBernardo and Sr. Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry conclude all this glacial change is a result of lay leadership moving the church forward. In a piece in The Huffington Post,they recall that only a decade ago, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger declared there could be no legal recognition of same-gender couples. DeBernardo and Gramick continue:

“Faced with mounting evidence that the hierarchy is rapidly losing influence..some leading bishops are seeking to soften the hard line that Benedict XVI drew when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. Their argument…is that marriage, even civil marriage, must be defined as a relationship between one man and one woman, but that legal recognition of same-sex relationships is permissible or even desirable…

“Reform-minded Catholics are often told that the church is not a democracy. In the conventional political sense, that may be true. But the church ministers in democracies. And in country after country, Catholic voters have gone to the polls, ignored the often heavy-handed lobbying of their bishops, and voted in favor of marriage equality, or legislators who support marriage equality. They are changing the teachings of the church by changing the culture in which the church functions…

“The choice before our bishops now is whether to continue a divisive battle that will only diminish their own authority, or to follow where the laity has led.”

The implication of a softening approach to legal recognition of same-gender couples by the Vatican, and trickling down through the world’s bishops, could have concrete policy implications:

“If the pope adopted the position espoused by Schönborn and others, the Catholic hierarchy would have no reason to oppose including the same-sex partners of U. S. citizens among those who could be granted citizenship under the immigration bill about to come before the U. S. Senate. The hierarchy could support or remain neutral on legislation that extends to gay and lesbian couples legal protections and benefits that they are now denied in most states in this country. It could speak in less vitriolic terms about same-sex couples and their families, as the bishops of England and Wales did recently in acknowledging “that many same-sex couples raise children in loving and caring homes.”

Fr. Lombardi’s comments fit within an atmosphere of Catholic prelates endorsing civil unions, but how widespread and sustained this support will be remains an open question.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Another Vatican Official Endorses Civil Unions

April 23, 2013

It’s becoming so common that it almost seems “un-newsworthy.”   Yet another church prelate has announced his support for civil unions for lesbian and gay couples.

Archbishop Piero Marini

Archbishop Piero Marini

This latest announcement is particularly important because it comes from another Vatican official, Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.  In February, Archbishop Vincent Paglia,  head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, also announced his support for civil unions.

John Allen of The National Catholic Reporter reports that Marini revealed his support in an interview with La Nacion newspaper in Costa Rica, which just closed a Eucharistic Congress. Here’s the relevant part of the interview (translated by The National Catholic Reporter):

“Q: Costa Rica has opened a discussion about what it means to be a secular state. What do you think of these decisions?

A: This is already a reality in Europe. A secular state is fine, but if it turns into a secularist state, meaning hostile to the Catholic Church, then there’s something wrong. Church and state should not be enemies to one another. In these discussions, it’s necessary, for instance, to recognize the union of persons of the same sex, because there are many couples that suffer because their civil rights aren’t recognized. What can’t be recognized is that this [union] is equivalent to marriage.” (emphasis mine)

(John Allen’s blog post contains the entire English translation of the interview; for the original Spanish-language version of the interview, click here.)

We have in this statement, the familiar caution that civil unions should not be considered equal to marriage, which may put a damper on this development, However, I’ve argued before, viewed in context, the approval of civil unions is really a giant step forward.  No one would have guessed even a year ago that there would possibly be so much growing support for civil unions among the hierarchy.  For a list of recent statements by bishops and cardinals, click here.

Of course, the most newsworthy recent announcement of civil unions support came with the revelation that when Pope Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, he supported the idea of civil unions as a compromise.  John Allen provides some interesting background to this piece of news:

“On March 19, TheNew York Times reported that when Argentina was gearing up for a bitter national debate on gay marriage in 2009 and 2010, Bergoglio quietly favored a compromise solution that would have included civil unions for same-sex couples.

“That report was denied by Miguel Woites, director of the Argentinian Catholic Information Agency, a news outlet linked to the Buenos Aires archdiocese. Woites insisted Bergoglio would ‘never’ have favored any legal recognition of same-sex unions and said the Times report was a ‘complete error.’

“In early April, however, a senior official in the Argentine bishops’ conference told NCR that Bergoglio did, in fact, favor civil unions.

“Mariano de Vedia, a veteran journalist for Argentina’s leading daily, told NCR he could confirm Bergoglio’s position had been correctly described in the Times account.

“Guillermo Villarreal, a Catholic journalist in Argentina, said it was well known at the time that Bergoglio’s moderate position was opposed by Archbishop Héctor Rubén Aguer of La Plata, the leader of the hawks. The difference was not over whether to oppose gay marriage, but how ferociously to do so and whether there was room for a compromise on civil unions.

“Villareal described the standoff over gay marriage as the only vote Bergoglio ever lost during his six years as president of the conference.”

Perhaps most interesting is Allen’s reporting of a speculation of how Pope Francis might react in the future to the idea of civil unions, now that he is in Rome:

“Speaking today on an Italian cable news network, church historian Alberto Melloni, seen as a voice of the progressive wing of Italian Catholicism, predicted that ‘sooner or later, this openness [to civil unions] will arrive in the magisterium of the pope.’ However, Melloni also said he believes Francis will move with ‘caution’ and ‘prudence.’ “

With the number of bishops speaking out for civil unions, especially those right in the Vatican, perhaps Francis won’t have to be as cautious as Melloni supposes.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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