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Below is the transcript:
Hello! This is Catholic Anonymous here with another episode of Wisdom of Pope Francis, where I take look at the teachings of our current Pope and try to tease out some of what it means for my own life and hopefully yours as well.
I’ve been going through the pope’s latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, and I hope to continue that next week. But this last week, I was in the dining room, and my mother came into the room and said, “Your pope is a liberal!” The reason she said this was because all over the news, they were saying that Pope Francis supports civil unions for gay people.
Allowing civil unions are kind of like saying a same-sex couple can live together and have all the legal protections a heterosexual married couple would have, without actually calling what they are doing “marriage.”
The reason my mom said what she said was because a documentary has recently come out wherein Pope Francis is seen saying,
What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.Pope Francis
And everyone went crazy! Liberal media was totally happy about this. Catholic conservative media was not. And now, after a few days, the dust has settled and they’ve all moved on to bigger things like the US’ national election.
But at any rate, this having made such a big splash, I thought it was important to take a moment and talk about what Pope Francis said for a couple reasons.
One is that our dear pope says things off the cuff on a regular basis that sound like they contradict Catholic teaching. So it’s good to dig into what he says and ask the question, “Is that really true? Does it?”
And secondly, usually when this happens, and I start really digging into the context around what he said or read the fuller quote of what he said, I often walk away thinking, “Well.. he kind of has a point.”
So let’s take a look at this.
The first thing that’s important to note is that the Catholic Church teaches now, as it always has, that marriage can only be morally right if it is between a man and a woman, and sex is only morally right if it is within the bonds of marriage. There is no such thing as “gay marriage” because marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
Pope Francis has implied as much. In 2017 the pope had an interview with the French author Dominique Wolton. He was asked about the possibility of same-sex marriage. Pope Francis responded saying,
Let’s call this ‘civil unions.’ We do not joke around with truth.Pope Francis
So Pope Francis seems to make a distinction between marriage as the church sees it and civil unions. They are two different things.
But you might wonder, “Why say this at all?” This could still be considered a departure at least from Vatican policy on the subject. In 2013, under Pope Benedict XVI (the pope before Francis), a document signed by Benedict states that support for gay people
…cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.
So why did he do it? It would have been safer to just not say anything, even if he felt that civil unions should be allowed. To many of my fellow conservative Catholics, this can be really frustrating. It’s one of those comments Pope Francis often gives that needs to be walked back or couched in different terms to be made sense of. Why say it at all?
I have an idea. I can’t read the pope’s mind, so that’s a big caveat to what I’m about to say here. But I think it should be said anyway. Looking at how the pope has conducted his papacy, he seems to care a lot more about people and how to love them well than he does about making sure all his theological “i”s are dotted and “t”‘s crossed. He’s much more pastoral – meaning that he doesn’t seem to think in terms of grand culture wars or left vs. right or the forces of liberalism vs. conservatism or any ism so much as he thinks like a pastor trying to shepherd his congregation in their real life circumstances.
So when Pope Francis says, “I support civil unions,” but he doesn’t support changing the church’s teaching on traditional marriage, I think what he’s saying is that in our world today, we have this reality of gay couples living in society. They attend our churches. They have children. Whether we think that’s ideal or not, that’s how it is.
So how do we love them? How do we protect them? One way is by not passing laws that criminalize homosexuality. Another thing Pope Francis specifically said was that gay children should not be shunned by their parents or cast out of their homes. They need room to sort through how they are feeling and what they are going through.
And perhaps, as Pope Francis has said, we can love them by making sure they are legally protected. I know a family, two lesbians who have five children. As a Catholic, do I agree with these women being married? No.
As a Catholic, though, do I think we should break apart that family? Put the kids in some other family with a mother and father? Make sure they don’t get any of the rights and protections I get with my own family? Is that the loving thing to do? No.
This is the dance Pope Francis is always doing, and it’s the dance we as Catholics need to be doing as well. By all means, let’s know our theology. But let’s also remember that love has to overshadow everything.
Thomas Aquinas actually made this point that, as Bishop Barron said in an interview with Dave Rubin, not every thing that is morally wrong should be legislated against because it may cause more problems than the law solves. You could make the argument that prostitution falls into this category perhaps. Would we have less sex trafficking if prostitution were legal but highly regulated in the United States?
I think of prohibition as a kind of example of this as well (though, obviously having a beer is not sinful). But in the heyday of prohibition in the United States, you saw the rise and strength of a lot of organized crime that probably would not have been so strong if alcohol were just legal.
So this is the wisdom of Pope Francis: even if I don’t agree with the gay community on a host of fundamental issues, I can desire and even advocate for them to have legal protection against discrimination, against the criminalization of their behavior. I can say that in a pluralistic society, where we have to make room for everyone, even those we disagree with, they should be granted the legal protections and even rights any married couple with a family would have. I don’t agree with them morally, but in the larger society, love would dictate we make room for those we disagree with.
This is my take on Pope Francis’ comments on civil unions. I would love to hear yours over at catholicanonymous.blog. Have I gone too far? Has Pope Francis gone too far? I hope you leave a comment.
And while your at it, check out catholicanonynous.rocks as well. I’m currently putting music to the Psalms. You can listen to them there or on Soundcloud. I hope you enjoy them.
Until next time, God bless.
©2020 Catholic Anonymous
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