PROVIDENCE – The Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, Thomas Tobin, asked Pope Francis for clarification after the pontiff made a surprise departure from his predecessors and the Vatican doctrinal office by calling for civil union laws to accommodate same-sex couples.
Pope Francis made the remarks in a documentary, “Francesco,” which premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday, the Catholic news agency said. In the film, Pope Francis says: âHomosexuals have the right to be part of the family. They are children of God and they have the right to a family. No one should be fired or made miserable because of it. He had been questioned about his approach to pastoral care.
Following: Francis becomes the first pope to endorse same-sex civil unions
He later elaborated, saying; âWhat we need to create is a civil union law. This way they are legally covered. I stood up for that, âhe said, referring to his support for civil unions as part of his opposition to sacred marriage for members of the LGBT community.
Bishop Tobin’s statement, released Wednesday morning, said:
âThe Holy Father’s apparent support for the recognition of civil unions for same-sex couples needs to be clarified. The Pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the Church’s long-standing teaching on same-sex unions The Church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships People with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and must have their personal human and civil rights recognized and protected by law. , the legalization of their civil unions, which seek to simulate holy marriage, is not admissible. “
In contrast, Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, who represents LGBTQ Catholics, hailed the pope’s comments as a âhistoricâ change for a church that has a history of persecution of homosexuals.
“It is no exaggeration to say that with this declaration, not only has the Pope protected LGBTQ couples and families, but he will also save many LGBTQ lives,” DeBernardo said.
The Pope’s departure from orthodoxy comes in the final round of an American election season in which President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden eagerly courted Catholic voters. It’s not yet clear whether this could indirectly benefit Biden, whose team ran ads highlighting his long-standing Catholicism, but some liberal-leaning faith advocates saw many shared values ââto highlight with Francis’ message of inclusion.
“Pope Francis’ words will underscore the inclusive and tolerant essence of Christianity that so many people care about,” said Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, a member of the Faith Initiative at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress.
âThe way conservative Christiansâ¦ twist this message of love and righteousness that Jesus proclaimedâ can have an alienating effect, he said.
Carolyn Woo, former president of Catholic Relief Services and co-chair of Catholics for Biden, said Francis’ unconditional emphasis on âthe dignity of personsâ aligns well with the values ââDemocrats espouse.
âOverall, the Democratic platform is this: We need to help people where they are. We have to protect their rights, we have to help them to flourish, âshe said, stressing the importance for Catholics to useâ careful judgment in how we honor life â.
This view, however, has little influence on more conservative Catholics who already take a dim view of his support for abortion rights, in stark contrast to a foundational teaching of their faith.
Another lesson confines the institution of marriage to one man and one woman – and that remains intact regardless of the pope’s remarks on same-sex unions, said Brian Burch, chairman of conservative CatholicVote.
Francis “does not have the capacity to change this teaching on the permanence and exclusivity of marriage,” said Burch, adding that he does not see the comments having “explosive relevance” in the current American political climate.
âCatholics who live in fellowship with what the church teaches understand that marriage is enshrined in the law of nature,â said Burch. “Nothing can change that.”
Previously, when he was Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Francis approved civil unions for same-sex couples as an alternative to marriage, but he never spoke publicly in favor of such unions like the Pope, nor no previous pontiff.
Reverend James Martin, a prominent Jesuit priest who has advocated for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the church, called the remarks momentous.
âFirst he says them as Pope, not as Archbishop of Buenos Aires,â Martin tweeted. âSecond, he clearly supports, not just tolerates, civil unions. Third, he says it on camera, not in private. Historical.”
But Reverend Donald Paul Sullins, a conservative professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America, said they “directly contradict the most recent teaching of the Catholic Church on this issue.”
He quoted from a 2003 Vatican document approved by Saint John Paul II which read: “The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons can in no way lead to the approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition. homosexual unions.
Even so, polls indicate that many lay Catholics accept more the rights of LGTBQ despite such teachings. About 6 in 10 Catholics supported government protections that would ban discrimination against LGBTQ people in workplaces, homes and schools, according to a December poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
“These words of the Pope will inflame many members of the Catholic right … but they will be a balm for the vast majority of Catholics and, I dare say it, pastors,” said David Gibson, director of the Center on Religion and Fordham University culture. âThey don’t want to engage in these ugly culture war battles, especially because gay Catholics are not abstractions – they are at home, part of their family and part of their parishes. “
Francis’ remarks appear to undermine the policies of some Catholic institutions prohibiting employees from entering into same-sex marriages.
Natalia Imperatori-Lee, professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, expressed hope that the Pope’s remarks “will prompt Catholic institutions to stop firing teachers, catechists, music ministers and others who do. part of the LGBTQ community and a vital part of the Catholic community. also.”
The largest Protestant denomination in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention, shares the Catholic Church’s official opposition to same-sex marriage and civil unions, and several of its leaders have also criticized Francis.
The comments “reveal another sign of the recklessness of this papacy and demonstrate the weakening of the truth, doctrine and moral logic of his own church,” said Reverend Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary .
âGiven the influence of this church around the world,â Mohler continued, âthis will weaken the Christian testimony about marriage, sexuality and gender according to the will of God and the Word of God.â
âFrancesco,â the documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis, will debut in North America on Sunday.
With reports from The Associated Press
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