More on the New Pope’s Civil Union Request: An Act of Humanity or Pragmatism?

Last week I mentioned that Pope Francis, then Cardinal Borgoglio, had floated the idea of civil unions when faced with the unstoppable passage of same-sex marriage, according to his authorized biographer. The NYT has more on that today:

FrancisFaced with the near certain passage of the gay marriage bill, Cardinal Bergoglio offered the civil union compromise as the “lesser of two evils,” said Sergio Rubin, his authorized biographer. “He wagered on a position of greater dialogue with society.”

In the end, though, a majority of the bishops voted to overrule him, his only such loss in his six-year tenure as head of Argentina’s bishops’ conference. But throughout the contentious political debate, he acted as both the public face of the opposition to the law and as a bridge-builder, sometimes reaching out to his critics.

“He listened to my views with a great deal of respect,” said Marcelo Márquez, a gay rights leader and theologian who wrote a tough letter to Cardinal Bergoglio and, to his surprise, received a call from him less than an hour after it was delivered. “He told me that homosexuals need to have recognized rights and that he supported civil unions, but not same-sex marriage.”

Mr. Márquez said he went on to meet twice with Cardinal Bergoglio, telling him of his plan to marry his partner and discussing theology. The man who would become pope gave him a copy of his biography, “The Jesuit.” 

Cardinal Bergoglio’s readiness to reach out across the ideological spectrum and acknowledge civil unions for gay people could raise expectations that he would do the same as pope. But some of this strategic flexibility may have stemmed as much from Francis’ position at the time as from his personal ideology.

Still, LGBT rights groups aren't swayed:

“The reality, beyond what he may have said in private meetings, was that he said some terrible things in public,” said Esteban Paulón, president of the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals. “He took a role, in public, that was determinedly combative.”

Read the full piece here.


  1. Thomas says

    I know everyone is going to pile on hate about this, but let’s remember: He’s Catholic and this is a religion we’re talking about. YOU WILL NEVER GET A CURRENT HIGH RANKING CATHOLIC OFFICIAL SUPPORTING GAY MARRIAGE. It may happen over time with a generational shift, but religions are not the same as political parties or nations. They don’t have a platform–they have doctrine made over centuries. It can change, but only incrementally.

    Of course, there is wide variation in what it means to “respect” homosexuals, which is part of what Church doctrine teaches. I’ve encountered fire-and-brimstone “priests” who believe that respect means conversion therapy or worse. I’m sure it’s worse in some African countries, for example. And I’ve met some who are surprisingly supportive of LGBT rights. Short of marrying my partner and I in a Catholic Church, they value us and our relationship and view the catechism as compatible with full civil rights. I’ve had the conversations. I know lesbian and gay friends who openly attend Mass as a couple. There is not one monolithic Catholicism, as best I can tell. Those “good” priests were all Jesuits by the way, just like Bergoglio.

    I get that it’s still frustrating and that religion in general is a pretty bad enterprise most of the time. But Bergoglio seems many steps to the left of Ratzinger, he doesn’t have a history of covering up child abuse, he cares about the poor, etc. I count all that as a good thing.

  2. borut says

    Christianity is based on a book that says homosexuals should be killed. This makes Christianity an insult to humanity. Gays who discuss gay rights with people who want to live by the book are demeaning themselves.

  3. Caliban says

    I’m not well informed enough to have a firm opinion, but I suspect it was an attempt to “head gay marriage off at the pass,” pragmatism.

    That said, it’s still an improvement over anything Pope Rat said or did by a mile.

    With Ratzinger at their “moral” leader a number of American priests, Bishops, Archbishops, etc. have written very harsh and condemnatory statements about gay marriage, threatening to withhold communion from those who vote for it, among other things. What will be interesting to see is if, now that there is a *slightly* more moderate Pope, they’ll dial that rhetoric back a bit. I think the directive to break out their poison pens on the topic came straight from the Vatican.

  4. john patrick says

    RC bishops have from time to time supported civil unions when marriage equality was imminent. But when there were options of civil unions or no civil unions, they have opposed civil unions. I suspect he was hoping for something less than marriage to head off marriage equality at the pass. But as people have soon discovered where civil unions or domestic partnerships are enacted, separate is not equal. Civil unions and domestic partnerships are not enough.

  5. Shane says

    @Thomas. I’m with you. I’ll add this: I don’t bother much with any of it, as I subscribe neither to Catholicism nor to the infallibility of the Pope.

  6. says

    I don’t get it – is he talking only about Civil Unions for gay CATHOLICS? because I can’t see why the Pope should, or would, have anything to say about gay couples who aren’t Catholic, or Christian.

    up next – jewish leaders to provide a list of non-kosher food items that gentiles can eat. right? 😉

  7. jamal49 says

    Big deal. The point that the Cardinal misses, his Church misses, his clergy misses, his orthodox followers miss and most christian bozos in general miss is that we are talking about CIVIL marriage not religious marriage. I do NOT want to get married in your stupid, f-en church, Cardinal. I never did and never will. I just want you and the rest of you religious reprobates to butt out of secular politics and stop trying to dictate to the millions of us who don’t march to your drumbeat how to live our lives.

  8. Chuckles says

    The French bishops took a similar position, asking for beefing up the rights attached to civil unions instead of same-sex marriage.

    Humanity or pragmatism misses the point, which is that the good old USA has the most neanderthal bishops.

    USA! USA! USA!

  9. Onnyjay says

    This one is a different breed of cat: cooked his own meals, rode the bus to work. Granted, still a reflexive homophobe, but Jesuits are notoriously independent. Give him some slack to become the pope he really wants to be.

  10. walter says

    why should people have to accept being second class citizens because offends this bigot ? too bad. child rape , selling babies ,protecting pedophiles, making people work in slave conditions offend me so the pope should go away to please me.

  11. Thomas says

    KIWI and JAMAL49–We can wish it all we want, but to pretend that politics, law, and religion aren’t tied pretty closely together is silly. And to pretend that all religions don’t actively promote social positions where those touch on issues of morality is also silly.

    Until we live in some secular humanist paradise, religion and religious figures are going to matter.

  12. MArk says

    Expose him to some Cirque de Soleil gay stuff like the last pope, and make him run with his buttler to kiss and make out in retirement like previous pope

  13. Pauls_View says

    Maybe the new Pope is more Christ-like than I have given him credit for. Jesus would support and love gays.

  14. SayTheTruth says

    As an Argentine myself remember: don’t judge an Argentine by his words, we are good at speeches, unashamedly lying if necessary, and dialectic stuff, judge an Argentine by his deeds. This pope has proved by his deeds though that he wasn’t of the same branch of the stern hateful ones and that he really liked to work with the poor, though he also said unforgivable things about gay marriage. So, you will notice in the next couple of years if he is serious about changing the Church or if he is just a charlatan. Another thing: Argentines are very good at playing alone, as individuals, but Argentines don’t play well in groups, collectively. But the Vatican is an absolute monarchy, so we’ll see what happens there.