Tag Archives: civil unions

Does Pope Francis Support Civil Unions?

At Bondings 2.0, Frank DeBenardo makes an intriguing claim about Pope Francis – that he has made ” a declarative endorsement of civil unions for same-sex couples”. He bases this on an extract from a conversation between the pope and a French sociologist, one of a series of 12 which will soon be published in book form.

Extracts from these conversations, including the one referring to civil unions, have been published at Crux:

“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.’ Lets not play with the truth. It’s true that behind it there is a gender ideology. In books also, children are learning that they can choose their own sex. Why is sex, being a woman or a man, a choice and not a fact of nature? This favors this mistake. But let’s say things as they are: Marriage is between a man and a woman. This is the precise term. Lets call unions between the same sex ‘civil unions’.”

DeBenardo’s response at Bondings 2.0 is to read this as an endorsement of civil unions:

For the most part, this section is not surprising.  On many occasions, Pope Francis has stated his opposition to marriage for lesbian and gay people.   And he is also on the record for being negative towards new understandings of gender identity, though positive about welcoming transgender people.

What’s new here, however, is his declarative endorsement of civil unions for same-sex couples. Although many church leaders have suggested supporting such an arrangement in recent years, Pope Francis has never, as pontiff, stated his endorsement of civil unions so flatly.

Is this really a ” declarative endorsement of civil unions for same-sex couples”? I’d love to think so, but I’m not convinced. As I read the passage quoted in Crux, all he has done is make a statement about language. As a simple statement of fact, he obviously recognises that that these same-sex legal partnerships exist. He does not want them to be described as marriage, and would prefer them to be called civil unions. That does not imply that he supports them.

It is of course possible that he does support civil unions. DeBenardo notes that “He did support civil unions as a compromise to his opposition towards marriage equality when he was an archbishop in Argentina.”  This is true. As pontiff, there have also been numerous hints  that he supports greater acceptance of same-sex unions, possibly including legal recognition and fuller participation for same-sex couples in the life of the church. It is quite possible that he does indeed support civil unions – but this is not spelled out in the text quoted. Sadly, all that is clear in the passage directly concerning the pope’s attitude to same-sex unions, is once again clear opposition to same-sex marriage.

And yet, it’s not all bad news. As in “Amoris Laetitia”, there are encouraging thoughts which are relevant for LGBT Catholics, while not referring to us exclusively or by name. First, there is an admission of value in the lay state.

“The lay state is a healthy thing. There is a healthy laicism. Jesus said: We must render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. We are the same before God.

This could well imply at least, respect for civil unions as a matter of law.  Then there’s also an important observation about the place of the laity, in the church:

“But the Church is not bishops, popes, and priests. The Church is the people. And Vatican II said: ‘The people of God, as a whole, do not err.’ If you want to know the Church go to a village where the life of the Church is lived. Go to a hospital where there are many Christians that come to help, laymen, sisters… Go to Africa, where there are many missionaries. They burn their life there. And they make real revolutions. Not to convert, it was another time when we spoke of conversion, but to serve.”

All the available evidence is that ‘The people of God, as a whole” t do not agree with the Vatican teaching on sexual ethics, taken as a package.  The absolute prohibitions on contraception, on sex before marriage, and on masturbation are widely rejected and ignored, not only in the West, but world-wide. Support for same-sex relationships is now widespread in many regions, and growing elsewhere. Many theologians and an increasing number of bishops understand the implication: the traditional doctrines on sex have not been “received” by the faithful. They must be refined – and surely will be, in time.

Cdl Schonborn: Same-sex Couples Also Need Families.

In a remarkable and groundbreaking statement, a prominent Catholic cardinal has acknowledged that protecting and strengthening “the family” can include protecting those headed by same-sex couples.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna talks to journalists June 13 outside St. John’s Cathedral in Limerick, Ireland. The cardinal was attending a conference, “Let’s Talk Family: Let’s Be Family.” (CNS photo/Liam Burke courtesy Press 22)

The Catholic Church is doing whatever it can to strengthen the family, including families often considered nontraditional, said Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, the theologian who reviewed Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family.

Favoring the family does not mean disfavoring other forms of life — even those living in a same-sex partnership need their families,” the cardinal said during a visit to Ireland, which next year hosts the World Meeting of Families.

Catholicnews,com (emphasis added)

For lesbian and gay Catholics, this is immensely significant, for several reasons.

Cardinal Schonborn is clearly close to Pope Francis, and has his respect, as shown by his prominent role in presenting the pope’s Apostolic Exortation “Amoris Laetitia (The joy of Love)”, following the Catholic bishops’ synod assembly on marriage and family.

On lesbian and gay inclusion in church, he has often been among the first to articulate positions which later became commonplace. Several years ago, he was the first senior cardinal to suggest that the time had come to stop focusing on homosexual genital acts, and to look instead at the quality of the relationships. At the time, there was speculation that he would be promptly rebuked by Pope Benedict XVI. When that did not happen, a series of other bishops quickly echoed Schonborn’s thoughts on this. Later, he further developed his thinking, by extending to support for legal recognition of loving and committed same-sex relationships, in civil unions. This new statement takes it one step further, in implicit recognition that in some countries (eg Ireland, where he was speaking). these legally sanctioned unions could include civil marriage. Given his track record of anticipating Church thinking, we should expect more bishops to start talking about respect for different types of families – including those headed by same-sex couples.

“Today, everybody can get married,” he said, but acknowledged “so many choose not to get married.” He suggested that the number of so-called irregular situations has increased enormously because the “framework of society has changed so much.”

Schonborn was in Ireland to address a conference, “Let’s Talk Family: Let’s Be Family.”  In his remarks, he also noted that there have been times when large sections of the population (servants, for example) where not permitted to marry. Against this background, the Irish slogan “marriage for all” is just the logical extension of a long-term historical trend.  Next year, Ireland will host the World Meeting of Families.  It can be expected that with the “framework of society” having changed so markedly in the country, much of the discussion at the World Meeting of Families will at least consider all families.

Related Posts:

Italian Bishops’ (de facto) Acceptance of Civil Unions.

For years, Italy has been a major, conspicuous anomaly on the Wikipedia map of same-sex unions in Europe: the only country of Western Europe to have neither same-sex marriage, nor any other legal recognition for same-sex couples. Up to now, this has come about with the implacable opposition of the Italian bishops to any form of legal recognition.

With the passage this week of a civil unions bill in the Italian senate, by a comfortable majority, that’s about to change. More remarkably, this has come about with the de facto acquiescence of the Italian bishops. This is a truly remarkable turnaround, in just a few years!

Screenshot 2016-02-27 at 09.38.36 - Edited

Continue reading Italian Bishops’ (de facto) Acceptance of Civil Unions.

Swiss Theologians, on Blessing Same – Sex Couples

Could the Family Synod next month give approval to church blessings for same – sex couples? Even the most optimistic Catholic might think that a stretch, but some Swiss theologians seem to think otherwise.  We should remember though, that many Protestant churches in Europe and North America have already accepted either church blessings, or full equal marriage for all couples, or are considering these as serious options. In the Catholic Church, the largest lay organization in Germany has explicitly asked for approval for such church blessings – and the request was not rejected out of hand by the senior cardinal.

Even if it is unlikely to happen at the synod, it is worth noting that there is serious thought being given to it, and to the specific arguments being advanced. (Recall that just a few years ago, Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna hit the news for saying, almost as an aside, that it was time for the Church to move away from obsessing over homosexual genital acts, and focus instead on the quality of the relationships. That sentiment has now become almost commonplace among notable bishops and theologians, and underlies the points made in this article.

If it does not happen just yet, it is surely the shape of things to come.

Read in the original French at  Cath.ch , or read my very free translation below:

illustration-800x450

Same-sex couples: towards a blessing? – cath.ch

Switzerland  
A clear answer about same-sex couples is expected from the next Synod on the family  
Lausanne, 16 March 2015.

Continue reading Swiss Theologians, on Blessing Same – Sex Couples

Understanding the Vatican Surrender to Italian Civil Unions

In Italy, the Catholic parties in the Senate are mounting a fierce battle to stave off the government’s introduction of civil unions for same – sex couples, but the Vatican appears to have decided not to back them – and allow the legislation to pass.

The report at Il Giornale notes that this is an apparent paradox, but shows how in fact, it is not. Some may find this news surprising, but it is not unexpected: I wrote about the possibility myself, in this post. To understand how this has come about, we need some clarification of key points.

Gay marriage

First, it is not true (as Gay Star News has claimed) that the Vatican has decided to “back” civil unions. That would be unthinkable, for a deeply conservative curia, and a major synod on protecting marriage and family is imminent, and where the question of LGBT ministry is already shaping up to be a major hot potato.  All that has happened (if the report is sound), is that the Vatican is facing some uncomfortable facts, and is beating a strategic retreat. If some form of legal protection is inevitable, it will not damage its reputation by fighting a losing battle. In stepping back, it hopes it will be left with the lesser of two evils. Continue reading Understanding the Vatican Surrender to Italian Civil Unions

Il Giornale Reports that the Vatican Is Ready for Civil Unions!

Gay Star News reports that the Vatican could be ready to support civil unions, and also step – child adoption, based on an Italian language report, in Il Giornale.

Same-sex couple Ariel Owens (R) and his spouse Joseph Barham walk arm in arm after they were married at San Francisco City Hall June 17, 2008 in San Francisco, California. Same-sex couples throughout California are rushing to get married as counties begin issuing marriage license after a State Supreme Court ruling to allow same-sex marriage.  Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP  = FOR NEWSPAPERS, INTERNET, TELCOS AND TELEVISION USE ONLY =
Same-sex couple Ariel Owens (R) and his spouse Joseph Barham walk arm in arm after they were married at San Francisco City Hall June 17, 2008 in San Francisco, California. Same-sex couples throughout California are rushing to get married as counties begin issuing marriage license after a State Supreme Court ruling to allow same-sex marriage. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP = FOR NEWSPAPERS, INTERNET, TELCOS AND TELEVISION USE ONLY =

I’ll be attempting an English translation as early as I can – but meanwhile, here’s the opening of the GSN report:

Could the Vatican be ready to back civil unions as the ‘lesser of two evils’?

New reports have suggested the Vatican could be ready to back civil unions for gay couples as the ‘lesser of two evils’.

The Secretary of State of the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, as well as the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), the assembly of bishops in Italy, are reportedly ready to reluctantly support a move towards equality.

Their hand is being forced as the European Court of Human Rights has said that as a major European country, Italy must provide same-sex couples with some form of union.

With the courts allowing a marriage between a trans woman and a cis man to stand, it appears the more conservative organizations are desperate to stop same-sex marriages from happening.

According to the Giornale, The Vatican and the CEI would give a green light to civil unions and also step-child adoption.

While many bishops would prefer same-sex couples to have no rights, the newspaper suggests that if couples are denied civil unions for much longer it will only lead to the courts forcing the country to pass full marriage equality.

‘Given the rulings of courts both here and across the world giving rights to gay and lesbian couples and their families, to approve civil unions would represent the “lesser evil” against the risk that of being forced to extend marriage to same-sex couples,’ they say.

– more at Gay Star News

via Could the Vatican be ready to back civil unions as the ‘lesser of two evils’? | Gay Star News.

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Moral Theologian: Same – Sex Couples Deserve Sexual Expression of Their Love

First, it has to be said that same-sex oriented people have the right, in their lives – and that includes, too, the fact that like all people, they are sexual beings – to be recognized.

– moral theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff

Eberhard Schockenhoff, Theologe und stellvertretender Vorsitzender im Deutschen Ethikrat, spricht am 19. Mai 2015 in München.
Eberhard Schockenhoff, Theologe und stellvertretender Vorsitzender im Deutschen Ethikrat, spricht am 19. Mai 2015 in München.

Finally, an influential, mainstream Catholic theologian has faced the elephant in the room. More and more cardinals, bishops and others in the Catholic church have come to accept that same – sex couples deserve to have legal recognition of their relationships. Some have said so publicly, many more now agree, but are keeping their opinions firmly to themselves. Some have said they see positive value in such civil unions, others are more reluctant, seeing them merely as something to be accepted as a lesser evil than full marriage. But in all the many observations on the subject I have seen, there’s one crucial point no-one has yet dared mention publicly: can the Church accept that couples in such same – sex legal, committed and loving relationships, may express their love sexually?

The German moral theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff has, in effect, answered with a clear “yes”. He’s done so not in so many words, but that is the clear implication of his words, quoted above. Continue reading Moral Theologian: Same – Sex Couples Deserve Sexual Expression of Their Love

Kasper: Same – sex Unions “Central” to the 2015 Family Synod.

For lesbian and gay Catholics, there is dynamite in Cardinal Walter Kasper’s expectations for the October Synod. Recall, that he has form in this. Addressing the 2014 consistory of cardinals, his reflections on more sympathetic pastoral response to divorced and remarried Catholic gave advance notice that would be a major them of the initial, extraordinary synod. So it proved. Now, he has given notice of a different them that could be a major focus of this years synod: same -sex couples and recognition of their unions. (Lifesite News agrees with my interpretation, greeting the news with horror. What distresses Lifesite usually pleases me).

Gay marriage

Continue reading Kasper: Same – sex Unions “Central” to the 2015 Family Synod.

Italian Catholics Support Civil Unions.

The Irish referendum has encouraged Italian politicians to move ahead with plans for civil unions and there is a strong majority in support. However, only a narrow majority support full marriage, and a large majority oppose gay adoption. In Italy, Catholic Church influence has stalled civil unions progress up to now, but a new survey for La Stampa shows that even among Mass going Catholics, a two-thirds majority (67%) support civil unions.

Support for:

Civil unions: Yes 67%;    No 27%;   no opinion 6%

Gay marriage: Yes 51%; No 37%; no opinion 6%

Gay adoption: Yes 24%; No 73%; no opinion 3%

Some extracts from the La Stampa report, freely translated:

Civil unions “yes”, same – sex marriage “maybe”, gay adoptions “no.”

What would happen if the Italians, like the Irish, were called to vote in a referendum on gay unions? The picture that emerges from a Piepoli survey for La Stampa suggests a moderate reform in our society: two Italians out of three (67%) believe we should just amend existing legislation – our country, without a law on the subject, is now isolated in Europe – but only one in two (51%) would like to follow countries like Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Great Britain, Luxembourg and Finland, where same sex marriages are legal.

Italians prefer to follow the German-Austrian model, which prohibits marriages but allows civil unions (although Berlin now wants to step forward).

Age and sex

In general, looking at the responses of the Italian by gender, we see that women are more open than men on the issue. The same goes for the young: the proportion favorable to gay marriage and adoptions falls with increasing age.

 Religion

Another decisive variable, is religious orientation. Needless to say, practicing Catholics are against adoption (only 17% in favor) and marriage (56% say no), but the majority of those who pray and go to Mass regularly (57%) would accept civil unions .