I am willing to bet you were like me last week when you heard the news reports about what Pope Francis had said in an interview concerning civil unions for gay couples. Even now I have to pinch myself to see if I might be dreaming that this happened. If you might have missed the news reports here is what Pope Francis 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.” ... "What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,"
I find these comments to be a continuation of what Pope Francis said to reporters in 2013:
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?”
It is also what had been in his heart years before becoming Pope and is coherent with the concept of accompaniment that I believe is the greatest development during Francis’ time as Pope. Accompaniment is mirroring the Jesus we see in the Gospel who seeks out and meets people where they are, acknowledging the goodness in their lives, and journeying with them towards the kingdom of God. With people in same-sex relationships, we would accept them as beloved children of God and acknowledge the goodness and beauty of the love in their relationship. By walking in faith with them we learn from each other and grow closer in our relationship with God.
As you can imagine the response in Catholic circles has been all over the place. There are those that decry this as contrary to Church teaching. My observation is that the majority of responses from Catholics is one of support and joy. I would venture to guess that 80+ percent of Catholics would embrace and endorse what Pope Francis said. Many might be saying, about time!
I found Archbishop Hebda’s response to be a nice middle of the ground and a proper response to Pope Francis’ words:
"Pope Francis’ remarks giving qualified support to civil unions of same–sex couples are not his first as pope. While affirming Church teaching that marriage can only be between one man and one woman (2019 Interview), he, along with others who defend traditional marriage, has shown openness to civil unions as a kind of middle way that would allow persons of the same sex in long-term relationships to have legal benefits without a civil redefinition of marriage itself. While Church teaching on marriage is clear and irreformable, the conversation must continue about the best ways to reverence the dignity of those in same–sex relationships so that they are not subject to any unjust discrimination (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358). The Pope seems to be emphasizing that we are called to find ways of extending a true sense of family to those who find themselves on the margins, so that they might experience the security of belonging and the joy of encountering the life–changing mercy of Jesus Christ."
I particularly like the statement that “conversation must continue”, although I am not a big fan of referring to same-sex relationships as “on the margins”. A friend of mine has said for many years “How many gay people does God have to create in the image and likeness of God before we get it”. I think my friend’s words are very prophetic and call us to accept and journey with people in same-sex relationships as they try to reflect the love of Christ in their relationships.
Pope Francis’ comments are a breath of fresh air and a challenge for us to continue to move forward in embracing all people as we all stumble our way to the Kingdom of God.
Peace, Love, Blessings