Editor’s note: This article was originally published on October 21, 2020. It was updated after the Vatican announced that the Catholic Church would not bless same-sex unions.
Last year, Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, had announced that his advocation for civil unions between same-sex couples during an interview for a documentary. He had said, “Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it,” adding, “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”
However, the Vatican just announced that the Catholic Church could not stand behind same-sex unions because they see it as a “choice,” describing it as sinful, and saying that it, “cannot be recognized as objectively ordered” to God’s plans. They said in a statement, “The blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered licit,” adding that God, “does not and cannot bless sin.”
Vatican Decrees the Catholic Church Cannot Bless Same-Sex Unions
Pope Francis is known for how welcoming he is towards the LGBTQ+ community, both within and outside the Catholic congregation. However, this decision is predicted to be upsetting for millions of the LGBTQ+ community who are Catholics, hoping for modernization of the institution. With many countries all over the world, especially Europe, who have legalized same-sex marriages, Catholicism many now seem to alienate even more potential young followers.
The Catholic Church’s statement did express that those in the LGBTQ+ community may receive blessings if they live according to Church teachings, but that blessing same sex unions would emphasize that the Catholic Church approves and encourages, “a choice and a way of life that cannot be recognized as objectively ordered to the revealed plans of God.”
They also explained that, “the negative judgment on the blessing of unions of persons of the same sex does not imply a judgment on persons.”
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As modern generations progress, the religious foundational systems that once ruled the early days of society have also started to adjust. “Francesco,” a new documentary film directed by Evgeny Afineevsky, revealed some official remarks by Pope Francis himself, regarding the Catholic church’s views on same-sex marriage and civil same-sex unions.
According to the Associated Press, Pope Francis, also known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio and the bishop of Rome, is the first pope to stand behind civil unions for gay couples. Afineevsky’s documentary premiered at the Rome Film Festival, featuring interviews with the pope and diving into issues that he cares about the most. This includes “the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.”
Pope Francis in the new documentary “Francesco”
Pope Francis, the Argentine leader of the Roman Catholic Church, expressed support for same-sex civil unions, explaining, “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that,” emphasizing his view on how gay people are children of God.
While he was serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina, Pope Francis had always been about civil unions as an alternative to same-sex marriages. He didn’t want people getting cut from being part of the family because of their sexual orientation.
Rev. James Martin is a Jesuit who also wanted to build bridges with the LGBTQ community said that the pope’s statements were, “a major step forward in the church’s support for LGBT people,” further explaining, “The pope’s speaking positively about civil unions also sends a strong message to places where the church has opposed such laws.”
Originally, the Catholic church found it difficult to find a common ground on their perspectives on the legal statuses of same-sex couples. Many bishops were worried that allowing gay marriages would threaten traditional marriages. However, many homosexual people and LGBT Catholics were even more delighted at the pope’s comments, considering that they had said they understood his opposition to marriage between gay couples within the church at the first place.
Nevertheless, the conservative wing in the United States, who was already accusing Pope Francis for interpreting church doctrine inaccurately, saw this as another avenue of dilution. The Church teaches that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered,” explaining firmly that the church is concretely opposed to the legal recognition of homosexual unions.
Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, said, “The pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the church about same-sex unions,” he said, asking for clarification, “The church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships.”
Back in 2003, the church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led by Pope Benedict XVI and under the pontificate of Pope John Paull II, issued “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons,” further explaining, “The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”
And although Pope Francis calls for equal recognition for LGBT people and the LGBTQ community as a major step in how church teachings could progress in serving the congregation, it will take time for the rest of the faith to catch up. Spokesman Matteo Bruni for the Vatican has declined to comment since the documentary has come out for the first time and the pope’s comments have gone public.