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Civil Unions for Gays?

Previously unreleased papal comments aired in the documentary “Francesco,” included those from a 2019 interview that endorsed same-sex civil unions.  We know that as archbishop of Buenos Aires prior to his elevation to the papacy he did endorse civil unions of same-sex couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. First echoing previous Church assertions about respecting homosexuals as “children of God,” he then states: “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 official 2019 Vatican transcript of the interview expunged the comments about such legal safeguards for civil unions.  While this opinion is arguably in the area of praxis it may have ramifications regarding to the transmission of moral truth.  The universal catechism teaches that “homosexual acts” are “intrinsically disordered.”  This has not changed. The Maryland Catholic Conference ran a major campaign against both same-sex marriages and legal civil unions.  It was argued as a danger to any consensus about the nature of marriage as an intimate relationship between a man and woman geared towards the transmission of new human life.  I remember offering the critique that the bishops and the “institutional” Church only became engaged in the defense of marriage at a time when gays wanted it and heterosexual couples were increasing cohabitating without it.  What the Church leadership failed to appreciate was that marriage was in trouble long before gays wanted inclusion, particularly through the blight of fornication, adultery and easy divorce and remarriage.  The leadership came to its defense too late to make any appreciable difference or to head off the momentum of a revolutionary atheistic secular-humanist morality.  Not only was the top off of any Pandora’s Box but all the proverbial evils had long since escaped.         

Many gays treat with disdain and suspicion the Church’s contention that they must be loved and treated with dignity and respect even as homosexual acts are condemned as sinful.  Frequently today, they demand acceptance, not just toleration.  Indeed, some clearly articulate as hypocrisy the assertion that one might “love the sinner but hate the sin.”  What this means is that homosexuality has become the chief marker in how they identify themselves as persons.  This should not surprise us as Western society itself has become increasing eroticized in its world view and resistant to any virtues of modesty, chastity, prudence or self-control.

The statement by Pope Francis would seem to conflict with the official line established by the Vatican in 2003 where the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (under Cardinal Ratzinger/later Pope Benedict XVI) stipulated that respect for homosexuals “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”  We tell heterosexual couples that civil unions without the sacrament of the Church are grievously sinful and are both invalid and illicit bonds.  How can we discourage civil bonds for the unions of men and women outside the Church but encourage and support them for homosexual couples?  Reflecting upon the Holy Father’s statement, it may be that he simply wanted to commend or support genuine love where ever it is found and a more embracive sense of family— under the civil protections of society’s laws— apart or segregated from human sexuality and possible deviancy.  If such is the case, then he would be proposing a civil union not as equivalence to marriage between men and women but as a civil and possibly spiritual adoption as brothers and sisters.  In order to receive the blessing of the Church, such couples would need to pledge perpetual lives of purity, chastity and celibacy.

One Response

  1. well said!

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