During the premiere of the feature-length documentary “Francesco”, Pope Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriage.
“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said in one of his sit-down interviews for the film. “You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”
The pope’s comments were well received by Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest who has been an advocate for establishing relationships with gay people in the church, CBS News said.
In a Catholic Church, while dignity and respect are aspects of life that gay people must be treated with, the act of homosexuality is considered “intrinsically disordered.”
A document signed by Francis’ predecessor Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2003 stated that the church’s recognition for gay people “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”
Martin stated that the pope’s remarks were “a major step forward in the church’s support for LGBT people.”
“The Pope’s speaking positively about civil unions also sends a strong message to places where the church has opposed such laws,” Martin said in a statement.
However, Patrick Hornbeck, a professor of theology at Fordham University, doesn’t expect the teachings of the Catholic church to change “anytime soon” because of Francis’ endorsement.
“What the pope has done today in these comments is he’s given a permission slip to Catholics and to Catholic leaders who want to take that extra step, who want to be pastoral, as he’s been, in affirming LGBT people and their families and their loves, and that’s no small thing,” Hornbeck said.
“We have to remember that there are places all around the world where to be gay is to be thrown out of your family, where it’s to be beaten, where to be trans is to take your life in your hands, and so the pope’s statements, I think, will have an important effect and need to be celebrated that way.”