Pope Francis said in a recent interview with an Italian newspaper that the Catholic Church could support civil unions in some instances. The Pope did say that the Church would still believe marriage to be a sacrament only available for a man with a woman, but his comments do reveal a significant change in if not public policy, then at least in the general church attitude toward civil unions.
The Pope’s statement was actually not the first time a bishop of the Catholic Church had said something to this effect. Actually Pope Francis had said similar words while serving as Buenos Aires’ bishop in 2011. His recent comments do mark the first example of a Pope taking such a stance, which is something very important in Catholic theology as the Pope is said to be infallible.
The Pope said the Church must look at different cases of unions and evaluate them based on all of the information available. He also said that some states use civil unions as a way to give economic security to couples who are living together. He also said that these unions help couples get proper health care and that was not something that should be taken away from everyone before the entire case was considered.
A spokesman for the Vatican did take the time on Wednesday to clarify the words the Pope spoke, and possibly to calm some confused followers. The spokesman said that the Pope was not trying to weigh in on such a delicate matter as gay marriage or the ethics of homosexuality.
“In his response to the interviewer, he emphasized the natural characteristic of marriage between one man and one woman, and on the other hand, he also spoke about the obligation of the state to fulfill its responsibilities towards its citizens,” the Vatican spokesman added. He also said that those following the Pope would be wrong to extrapolate larger truths from the words the Pope spoke.
Whether the pope’s statements can be applied to gay marriage or not it is undeniable that Pope Francis has been trying to lead the church with tolerance, especially for those who may be living in a way that differs from common Catholic beliefs.
The Pope told many leaders of religious orders that the church must understand that the world today provides leaders with challenges that can be “difficult to understand.” He also added that he does not want leaders to alienate followers by giving them what he calls “a vaccine against faith.”
It is expected that the church’s current ban on Catholics who are divorced taking part in holy communion and the topic of contraception will be discussed at the meeting of Catholic bishops in 2014 in Rome. Concerning these issues Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church will make a response and give its followers some information, but he also added that that can not be done before proper reflection on the subjects at hand has been made.
Many eyes will no doubt be turned to Rome for the upcoming rulings on important Church doctrine coming from Pope Francis. He has already begun to soften the Church’s view of civil unions by admitting that he would not oppose all of them, by saying they must be evaluated with all of the information.
By Nick Manai