“Since marriage equality is out of the question, can the LGBTQ community trust Pope Francis to follow through on civil unions?”
Pope Francis has expressed support for civil unions in the Catholic Church. Once again, the pontiff has sent shockwaves across the globe to 1.3 billion of his followers with another LGBTQ- affirming statement.
This one might very well create talks of a schism in the Catholic Church, as we have seen in Protestant institutions.
“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family,” Francis said in the new documentary, Francesco by Oscar-nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky. “They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it.”
Sadly, Francis’s statement is not a Hallelujah moment for many LGBTQ Catholics, but rather it is celebrated with cautious optimism.
“If true, the Pope’s comments could represent an international game-changer and a major step forward for LGBTQI equality,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, an LGBTQ faith organization headquartered in Boston. “We hope that Catholic officials worldwide will work to provide essential legal and social protections for LGBTQI people and their families.”
Francis’s statement, of course, doesn’t mean he or the church embrace marriage equality. In his words: “Marriage between people of the same sex? ‘Marriage’ is a historical word. Always in humanity, and not only within the Church, it’s between a man and a woman… we cannot change that. This is the nature of things. This is how they are. Let’s call them ‘civil unions,’” Francis said, according to New Ways Ministry, a pro-LGBTQ Catholic organization.
Since marriage equality is out of the question, can the LGBTQ community trust Pope Francis to follow through on civil unions? Regrettably, Francis has shown to be the consummate flip-flopper toward us. I recall remarks he made in 2013: “When I meet a gay person … If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?”
This public statement then was the most LGBTQ-affirmative one the world has ever heard from the Roman Catholic Church. However, since 2013, Francis has come out of the closet displaying his true feelings concerning the LGBTQ community, especially his denunciation of transgender rights. For one, Pope Francis has compared transgender rights to nuclear weapons, and said, “Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”
For a lot of LGBTQ Catholics, Francis’s statement is merely lip-service since the Catholic Church still excludes the LGBTQ community from officially receiving any sacraments. And with COVID-19 hitting the LGBTQ community globally as hard as other minority communities, Francis should speak up on this urgent issue to change a homophobic church to open its heart and doors.
What does his pronouncement endorsing civil unions really mean? For some, it brings more hope for policy change in the Church, eventually leading to marriage equality. To me, it’s lip service, again.
Rev. Irene Monroe can be heard on the podcast and standing Boston Public Radio segment ALL REV’D UP on WGBH (89.7 FM). Monroe’s syndicated religion columns appear and the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail. She is a s a Visiting Researcher in the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program at Boston University School of Theology.