Pope Francis reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage on Wednesday, but suggested in a newspaper chat that it could support some types of civil unions. The Pope reiterated the church’s teaching that “marriage is between a man and a woman.” However, he said, “We have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety.”
States, for instance, justify civil unions as a way to provide financial security to cohabitating couples, the Pope said in a wide-ranging interview published Wednesday in an Italian daily. State-sanctioned unions are thus driven by the need to ensure rights like access to health care, Francis added.
A number of Catholic Bishops have supported civil unions for same-sex couples, including Pope Francis when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010, according to reports in National Catholic Reporter and The New York Times.
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But Wednesday’s comments are “the first time a Pope has indicated even tentative acceptance of civil unions,” according to Catholic News Service.
Pope Francis, who marks his first year in office on March 13, has sought to set a more tolerant tone for his 1 billion-member church and suggested that a broad range of topics are at least open for discussion.
Last January, Pope Francis recalled a little girl in Buenos Aires who told her teacher that she was sad because “my mother’s girlfriend doesn’t like me.”
“The situation in which we live now provides us with new challenges which sometimes are difficult for us to understand,” the Pope told leaders of religious orders, adding that the church “must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them.”
The Vatican later denied that those comments signaled an opening toward same-s*x unions.
Last June, Pope Francis famously refused to judge gay priests in comments that ricocheted around the world. He has also said that the church should not “interfere” in the spiritual lives of gays and lesbians.
In this latest interview, Francis also addressed several other controversial issues, including the Catholic Church’s ban on contraception, the role of women and the devastating clergy s*xual abuse scandal.
On contraception, the Pope praised Pope Paul VI for having the “courage” to “go against the majority” when restating the ban in 1968. But he added, the church must be “merciful” and “attentive to concrete situations.”
Contraception and church’s ban on divorced Catholics receiving holy communion, will likely be addressed at major meetings of Catholic bishops in Rome in 2014 and 2015.
“We must give a response. But to do so, we must reflect much in depth,” the Pope said Wednesday.
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