Baby (tiny, really) steps by pope Francis

I have repeatedly said that it is high time that pope Francis took at least some concrete steps to back up his feel-good rhetoric and he must be reading this blog because today he announced that he was willing to support civil unions for same-sex couples under restricted circumstances.

Pope Francis suggested the Catholic Church could tolerate some types of nonmarital civil unions as a practical measure to guarantee property rights and health care.

“Matrimony is between a man and a woman,” the pope said, but moves to “regulate diverse situations of cohabitation (are) driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care.”

Before people get too giddy, he also said that “the church would not change its teaching against artificial birth control but should take care to apply it with “much mercy.””

This is a very small step but we have to remember that this is the way that a huge bureaucratic institution like the Catholic church that is weighted down with rigid doctrinal traditions changes course, almost imperceptibly. See how long it took them to come round on Galileo and Darwin.

So I take this as a good sign.


  1. colnago80 says

    I recall relative to the issue of civil unions that the then Cardinal Bergoglio suggested during the debate over same sex marriage in Argentina that the church consider same sex civil unions as a compromise. He was overruled by the Vatican and other cardinals in South America. Thus, this is not a new position on his part.

  2. joeschoeler says

    This is so little, so late that it makes me suspicious that he’s supporting civil unions in an attempting to thwart the spread of same sex marriage. But I’m just a gay Texan who recently heard the news of the court case which may be soon overturning the gay marriage ban.

    I wonder if he tolerates gay sex, or if he wants to pretend that civil unions would be completely platonic.

  3. mordred says

    Maybe as a former Catholic I’m biased against the club, but I read this as him graciously accepting something that’s none of his business, civil unions are part of secular law (as is actual marriage in modern countries) and already implemented in a number of Catholic areas.

    Maybe this is a tiny step towards the RCC finally keeping their nose out of other peoples business or even treating homosexuals as equal in their own club, but I’m pessimistic and wish for the RCC membership to continue falling worldwide.

  4. astrosmashley says

    I’m still faintly optimistic since:

    1. he didn’t have to go there at all. That he even ‘gives’ a little (despite it isn’t his to give secular-wise) Is still a good thing since what he says is effectively official church position. Conservative doubling-down is the norm these days as we see with the Republican party. This tactic is at least smart. He seems to be addressing it as a poverty issue, i.e. equal access to laws and benefits of civil society. To do otherwise would be inconsistent with his views on poverty. I think he actually does care about being consistent on tha, and therefore must parse official doctrine that contradicts it..

    2. His main focus is on poverty, which is the overriding issue that intersects with all other humanist issues.

    3. He’s pissed off Conservative Catholics worldwide. Read: money

    Like I said, he didn’t have to do any of that stuff, and like all authoritarian beauracracies, the church is a big dumb giant that can’t be expected to move gracefully or quickly toward progress. A general and vague change in direction is the best we can expect….For now.

  5. Wylann says

    I’m not so nice as others. While the step is in the right direction, I think it’s a matter of pure political expediency. He sees the writing on the wall (so at least he’s a step ahead of many of those in the Faux Noise bubble) and doesn’t want the RCC to look quite as stupid and doctrinal as it did with so many other issues of the past. Besides, he is still covering up child molesters.

  6. Timothy says

    While I am welcoming Francis’ openness, I’m also disturbed that he also said this (in the same article):

    “”Values are values, period,” he said. “I cannot say that, among the fingers of a hand, there is one less useful than another. That is why I cannot understand in what sense there could be negotiable values.”

    This is frightening language. And, as I understand it, contrary to Roman Catholic teaching.

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    See how long it took them to come round on Galileo and Darwin.
    So I take this as a good sign.

    Yeah, just wait another 400 years and the Catholic Church might even apologise like it did to Galileo.

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