Jim Denison on How to Respond Biblically to Pope Francis’ Call for Same-sex Civil Unions

Pope Francis arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican January 31, 2018. | REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Pope Francis is calling for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples. This is a significant departure from the position of the Vatican’s doctrinal office as well as the pope’s predecessors on this issue.

His remarks came as part of a documentary that premiered last night and reflects on pastoral care for those who identify as LGBT. “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,” Pope Francis said in the film.

He then spoke directly to the issue of same-sex marriage: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”

What the pope and Church have previously stated 

According to the Catholic News Agency, the pope’s statement is a shift from his position in 2010, when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires and opposed efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. In the 2013 book On Heaven and Earth, he did not reject civil unions outright but described laws “assimilating” homosexual relationships to marriage as “an anthropological regression.” He also expressed concern that if same-sex couples “are given adoption rights, there could be affected children. Every person needs a male father and a female mother that can help them shape their identity.”

However, the National Catholic Reporter states that the pontiff has spoken in the past in favor of civil unions as a way to differentiate between Catholic marriages and relationships recognized by state authorities.

Conversely, under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who later became Pope Benedict XVI) and at the direction of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) stated in 2003 that “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote, and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society.”

The CDF added: “Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.” The document called support for such unions by politicians “gravely immoral.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jim Denison

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