Pope Francis makes Vatican history: His stance on gay marriage
In a surprising statement made in the new documentary, Francesco, Pope Francis said he supported civil unions between same-sex couples. A stark contrast against his predecessors, his statement is a step away from what the church has felt about same-sex marriage in the past. The pope’s remarks were so groundbreaking for the Catholic church, his statement has been called a “landmark endorsement” by some media outlets.
Francesco premiered at the Rome Film Festival on October 21st, showcasing interviews with Pope Francis & other Vatican figures. Director Evgeny Afineevsky, who previously won an Academy Award & an Emmy for his documentary Winter on Fire, had unprecedented access to the pope and discussed many taboo subjects within the church, including the LGBTQIA+ community & the church’s sexual abuse scandals.
Here’s a breakdown of what Pope Francis said, how people have responded, and a look into his previous statements that caused a stir in the Vatican.
What did Pope Francis say?
In Francesco, director Evgeny Afineevsky brought up the subject of the gay community during an interview. Pope Frances said, “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it”, according to Catholic News Agency.
According to The New York Times, Pope Francis continued, saying, “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered”. The pope said he “stood up for” civil unions between same-sex couples, indicating he’s supporting the type of legislation.
The New York Times reported the documentary will cover stories such as Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay man & sexual abuse survivor whom “[the pope] befriended”. The pope reportedly told Cruz, “God made you this way and loves you this way, and the pope loves you this way”. While Francesco explores other topics, the conversations involving the LGBTQIA+ community received the most attention after it premiered on October 21st.
Jesuit priest James Martin, who was appointed by Pope Francis to be a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication and an avid advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights, called the pope’s statement “momentous”. Martin told CNN, “He’s creating a new space for LGBT people” and by saying it on record, “he’s supporting it”. On Twitter, Martin wrote how he believes it’s a “big deal” and a “historic” statement.
Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said, “Today, Pope Francis took a significant step for inclusion & acceptance in the Catholic Church”. Likewise, Stonewall, a UK charity, went to Twitter to say the pope’s words were “immensely powerful and moving”. The charity believes the statement will “help build bridges” and could “move the Church to a place where our love is recognised as being as valid as any other”.
Bishop Thomas Tobin from Rhode Island, however, spoke out against the pope’s statement, according to The New York Times, saying it “clearly contradicts” the church’s stance on same-sex marriage and believes the Catholic church “cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships”.
Other statements by Pope Francis
This isn’t the first statement Pope Francis has made that made headlines, like when he called for more “grace” for divorcees or the time he called President Trump’s wall “not Christian” nor “gospel”. In fact, he’s spoken directly about the gay community, saying, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”, in July 2013, according to The Washington Post.
In addition, Pope Francis also reportedly welcomed Diego Neria Lejarraga, a transgender man, to the Vatican in January 2015. “When Lejarrage asked the pope if he had a place in the church, the pontiff reportedly responded by embracing him”, The Washington Post reported.
Due to all of the occasions he’s made liberal statements, the Pope said he’s been called a “heretic”, according to Politico, and has been accused of causing “theological anarchy”, as said by Father Thomas Weinandy.
Has the pope changed his views?
Pope Francis has been criticized for some of his past statements, as he’s still made a number of traditionally Catholic declarations over the years. For example, according to The Spectator, the pope denounced abortion and at one point called same-sex marriage an “anthropological regression”.
Pope Francis has gone back and forth in regard to his stance on same-sex unions, “rejecting” same-sex marriage but encouraging priests to be “welcoming” to nontraditional families in 2016, according to The New York Times. His stance on gender theory is also a controversial issue within the transgender community, especially when he said the idea of gender being a social construct was “against nature”.
Yet, The New York Times said the pope met with a transgender man in January 2020. The pope reportedly told him, “the church loves you and accepts you as you are”. In August 2020, American Magazine reported the pope supported an Argentinian nun who opened a safe house for transgender women. Pope Francis encouraged her “to carry on her work” and wrote in a handwritten letter he would “pray for you and your girls”.