The Pope Had Before Hinted At Support For Gay People; Vatican Jumps In To Ensure the Message Doesn’t Deviate From A LifeLong of Criticism Against Same-Sex Couples; Reactions In New England
By: Audrey Cole/TRT Reporter—
In an unprecedented move, Pope Francis recently expressed support of civil unions for same-sex couples, according to the Catholic News Agency.
The Pope’s comments, first heard in “Francesco,” a documentary produced by filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, are a historic move for the Catholic Church. The documentary premiered at the Rome Film Festival last month.
“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family,” the Pope said in the documentary as reported by the Catholic News Agency. “They’re 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.”
In the past, the Pope has indirectly supported civil unions, but this is the first time he expressed it directly, CNN reported.
“I feel ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the Pope’s comments regarding civil unions,” said Mary Beth Cummings, President of Dignity/Boston, a progressive and inclusive Catholic community for people of all sexual orientations, genders and gender identities.
Meanwhile, on the North Shore, Rev. Joe Amico, Pastor of Tabernacle Congregational Church, an Open and Affirming Congregation of the United Church of Christ in Salem, was taken aback by the news.
“At first I was stunned, but then realized I have liked other positive and affirming statements this Pope has made,” Amico said to The Rainbow Times.
Justice Barrett & Same-Sex Marriage
The Pope’s statement comes out to the public at a time when the U.S. Senate confirmed Conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a self-proclaimed devout Catholic, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Barrett’s appointment threatens to turn back decades of progress for LGBTQ+ and women’s reproductive rights, transgender rights and protections, healthcare for over 20 million Americans, and many more,” reported this publication.
Barrett, who filled progressive Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat, has been a source of angst for many in LGBTQ+ community because the now right-leaning SCOTUS could reverse Obergefell v. Hodges. Obergefell granted same-sex couples the right to marry in 2015, along with many other civil rights protections.
“Some of my colleagues in the Catholic Church believe the Pope made this stance at this time knowing Amy Barrett is Catholic!” Amico told The Rainbow Times.
The Vatican Reacts
However, shortly after the Pope’s statements were released, the Vatican was quick to clarify the remarks and issued a statement to explain the Pope’s comments.
“In a letter sent on October 30 from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State to papal representatives (nuncios) around the world, the Vatican said that two comments made by Pope Francis in the film ‘Francesco’ by Russian-born director Evgeny Afineevsky were taken out of context,” CNN reported.
The Vatican’s letter asserted that the Pope had spoken about the rights of same-sex couples to have “certain legal protection,” but not same-sex marriage.
“It is clear that Pope Francis was referring to certain provisions made by states, and certainly not to the doctrine of the Church, which he has reaffirmed numerous times over the years,” the letter read.
Catholic Inclusion at Home
According to Cummings, the Pope has hinted at inclusion within the Catholic Church for a number of years.
“Many LGBTQI+ Catholics have been bolstered by the Pope’s statements over the past several years, including when he asked, ‘Who am I to judge?’” she said.
Currently, the church does not perform same-sex weddings.
“In the United States, same-sex marriage is legal, but Catholic churches do not perform weddings for LGBTQI+ couples,” Cummings explained. “The Pope’s acknowledgment of the legal protections provided by civil unions may open the door to some Catholic parishes performing civil unions for LGBTQI+ individuals in the future.”
Cummings is hopeful that the Pope’s comments will help to shape LGBTQ+ acceptance.
“It may also lead to increased acceptance of LGBTQI+ individuals in parts of the world in which being identified as LGBTQI+ leads to discrimination, violence, and legal punishment,” she said.
It’s Not Enough
Amico wants to see more inclusion from the Catholic Church.
“It’s encouraging but [it] doesn’t really go far enough,” he said. “If you saw Cardinal O’Mally’s response, the Cardinal states marriage is still between a man and a woman in the Catholic Church. He clarified that the Pope’s announcement was only for civil unions.”
Amico pointed to his congregation as an example, which includes many former Catholics due to stalwart policies of the church.
“Since we are a protestant church what the Pope says or doesn’t, doesn’t really affect us all that much, although, we have a lot of former Catholics in our congregation because they wanted to be part of a more inclusive and progressive church,” Amico said.
Cummings remains realistically hopeful.
“Personally, I hope that the Pope’s recent statements will lead to wider acceptance of LGBTQI+ couples and their families in the church,” she said. “I also know that change happens slowly.”
For now, the local work for inclusion and acceptance continues for LGBTQ+ Catholics.
“At Dignity/Boston, we believe that God loves each of us not in spite of our sexual orientation or gender identity, but because of this and all other qualities that make us unique and whole,” said Cummings.
Regarding marriage, Cummings said it results in an extension of God’s love and should be made available to same-sex couples as well in the church.
“We believe that the sacrament of marriage, the commitments made to one another in marriage, and the families that marriages form, are extensions of God’s love,” she said. “This love is not reserved only for heterosexual people and their families.
“At Dignity/Boston, we are LGBTQI+ Catholics, family, friends, and supporters who are committed to our faith and have hope that our relationships and families will someday be recognized as fully equal in the Catholic Church at large.”
Trust and the Church
Due to the church’s long history of overt discrimination toward the LGBTQ+ community, Amico said it would take a long time for trust to be built.
“Because of a number of historical stands on this issue, I believe the Catholic Church will have to demonstrate far more acceptance on the local, national and international level before our community is going to accept they no longer discriminate,” Amico explained. “Time heals all wounds and these wounds to our community are so deep it may take a long [time] for some LGBTQ+ folks to trust and believe the Catholic Church supports them.”
At this point in time, Cummings noted that the church doctrine remains unchanged.
“Same-sex relationships are still considered disordered and evil,” she said.