Pope has history of defending marriage, but being open to some civil unions

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis often has expressed openness to the idea of laws recognizing civil unions, including for gay couples, to protect their rights.

The pope’s comments in a brief passage in the documentary film Francesco are similar to the position he took while archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and echo remarks he has made in several interviews during his pontificate: Marriage is only between a man and a woman, but civil union laws could provide legal protection for couples in long-term, committed relationships.

Speaking in Spanish in the film, Pope Francis says, “Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”

The film premiered in Rome October 21.

Pope Francis repeatedly has said publicly that parents should not and must not disown a child who is gay, and, on several occasions, he has spoken about the rights all people have to have a family.

In a 2019 interview on Mexican television, he was asked about his opposition to gay marriage in Argentina and his openness to LGBT people as pope.

“I have always defended doctrine,” he said. “It is a contradiction to speak of homosexual marriage.”

But he also told the interviewer, “Homosexual persons have a right to be in the family; persons with a homosexual orientation have a right to be in the family and parents have the right to recognize a son or daughter as homosexual; you cannot throw anyone out of the family, nor make life impossible for them.”

In A Future of Faith: The Path of Change in Politics and Society, a book-length series of conversations with the French sociologist Dominique Wolton, the two spoke about gay marriage and civil unions in the context of a discussion about tradition, modernity and truth.

“‘Marriage’ is a historical word,” the pope said, in the book published in French in 2017. “Forever, throughout humanity and not only in the church, it’s been between a man and a woman. You can’t change it just like that. It’s the nature of things. That’s how they are. So, let’s call them ‘civil unions.'”

In a 2014 interview published in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis was asked about moves across Europe to legalize gay marriage or adopt civil union laws.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “Secular states want to validate civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, driven by the need to regulate economic aspects between people, such as ensuring health care. These are cohabitation pacts of various kinds, of which I could not list the different forms.”

“It is necessary to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety,” he said, implying that some forms of civil unions would be acceptable.

According to The Great Reformer, a biography of Pope Francis by Austen Ivereigh, then-Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio went head-to-head with the government in 2010 when it began a drive to legalize gay marriage.

“He told a Catholic gay activist, a former theology professor named Marcelo Marquez, that he favored gay rights as well as legal recognition for civil unions,” Ivereigh wrote. “But he was utterly opposed to any attempt to redefine marriage in law.”

The future pope, the book continued, “had not raised strong objections to a 2002 civil unions law that applied only to Buenos Aires and that granted rights to any two people cohabitating for more than two years, independent of their gender or sexual orientation. He regarded it as a purely civic, legal arrangement that left marriage unaffected.”

In 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had issued a document urging Catholics to oppose giving “legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons,” particularly when such recognition would equate the unions with marriage and would allow the couple to adopt children.

Building a culture of life

As Catholics, we praise God for his creative genius. We proclaim that all life is good, and that every human life is very good. Every human life from the moment of conception is a sign of God’s free choice to bring forth new life. The choice is God’s. God chooses. God chooses love. God chooses life.

Eucharist heals, gives strength to serve others, pope says

VATICAN CITY – The Eucharist heals people of their wounds, emptiness and sadness, and gives them the strength to share Christ’s loving mercy with others, Pope Francis said on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

The joy of the Lord can change lives, the pope said in his homily during the June 14 Mass celebrating the feast day.

“This is the strength of the Eucharist, which transforms us into bringers of God, bringers of joy, not negativity,” he said during the morning Mass, which was celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica with a small congregation of about 50 people, the majority of whom wore masks and maintained social distance.

Drastically reducing the size of the congregation and not holding a traditional outdoor Corpus Christi procession after Mass were part of the ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Over many decades, popes have celebrated the feast either in different neighborhoods in and around Rome or at the Basilica of St. John Lateran followed by a one-mile procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major. The solemn procession, in which the pope or a priest carried a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament through the streets, would be lined with thousands of people.

For the feast day celebration June 14, however, the entire ceremony was held inside St. Peter’s Basilica and concluded with a long moment of silent eucharistic adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ celebrates the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

In his homily, Pope Francis said, “The Lord, offering himself to us in the simplicity of bread, also invites us not to waste our lives in chasing the myriad illusions that we think we cannot do without, yet that leave us empty within.”

Just as the Eucharist satisfies the hunger for material things, it also kindles the desire to serve others, he said.

“It raises us from our comfortable and lazy lifestyle and reminds us that we are not only mouths to be fed, but also his hands to be used to help feed others.”

“It is especially urgent now to take care of those who hunger for food and for dignity, those without work and those who struggle to carry on,” the pope said. “This we must do in a real way, as real as the bread that Jesus gives us,” and with real solidarity and genuine closeness.

Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of memory in order to stay rooted in the faith, united as a community and part of a “living history.”

God helps by leaving “a memorial,” that is, “he left us bread in which he is truly present, alive and true, with all the flavor of his love” so every time people receive him, they can say, “He is the Lord; he remembers me!”

The Eucharist, he said, also heals the many ways one's memory may be wounded.

“The Eucharist first heals our orphaned memory,” caused by a past darkened by a lack of affection and “bitter disappointments caused by those who should have given them love and instead orphaned their hearts.”

The past cannot be changed, he said, however, God can heal those wounds “by placing within our memory a greater love — his own love,” which is always consoling and faithful.

Through the Eucharist, Jesus also heals “negative memory,” which harbors all the things that have gone wrong and leaves people thinking they are useless or only make mistakes.

“Every time we receive him, he reminds us that we are precious, that we are guests he has invited to his banquet,” the pope said.

“The Lord knows that evil and sins do not define us; they are diseases, infections. And he comes to heal them with the Eucharist, which contains the antibodies to our negative memory,” he said.

Finally, the pope said, the Eucharist heals a closed memory filled with wounds that make people fearful, suspicious, cynical and indifferent.

Only love can heal fear at its root “and free us from the self-centeredness that imprisons us,” he said.

Jesus approaches people gently, “in the disarming simplicity of the host,” as bread that has been broken “in order to break open the shells of our selfishness,” he said.

After Mass, the pope greeted a few hundred people spread out in St. Peter’s Square for the noon recitation of the Angelus prayer.

After the prayer, he expressed his deep concern for the ongoing conflict in Libya, urging “international bodies and those who have political and military responsibilities to recommence with conviction and resolve the search for a path toward an end to the violence, leading to peace, stability and unity in the country.”

“I also pray for the thousands of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in Libya” as health conditions have deteriorated, making them even more vulnerable to exploitation and violence, he said.

The pope called on the international community to find ways to provide them with “the protection they need, a dignified condition and a future of hope.”

After civil war broke out in Libya in 2011, the country still finds itself divided between rival leaders, each one supported by militias and foreign governments.

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