In a new documentary that premiered this week, Pope Francis made a controversial endorsement of civil unions laws for homosexual couples.
“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” Francis said in the documentary. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or made miserable because of it.”
“What we have to create is a civil union law,” he continued. That way they are legally covered.”
His comments have made waves in religious circles, and there is much disagreement about whether or not Francis’ comments undermine the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality. While they do not change the Catholic doctrine that marriage is strictly defined as the union between one man and one woman, many are saying they mark a shift in the Vatican’s language.
Reverend James Martin, a Catholic priest who has been at the forefront of reconciliation between the Church and the LGBTQ community, called Francis’s comments “a major step forward in the church’s support for LGBT people.”
Similarly, in an interview with NPR, Father Bryan Massingale, an openly gay Catholic priest, celebrated the pope’s comments about “family rights”: “I was actually very excited and even jubilant I have to say. I was very, very pleased to hear the Pope make this kind of endorsement of civil unions for gay and lesbian persons.”
The Catholic News Agency, on the other hand, called the remarks “a shift from the perspectives of his predecessors”, namely Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, who guided the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith that states:
“…respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society.”
Matt Frad, an Australian Catholic author whose podcast “Pints with Aquinas” receives hundreds of thousands of downloads every month, spoke on behalf of traditional Catholics in a Youtube video addressing the Pope’s comments:
“We think he says things that are massively unhelpful and then doesn’t clarify them,” Frad said. “When you get ambiguous claims at best, which then are never clarified, it’s frustrating, especially as we seek to make Christ’s last commandment our first priority.”
“Maybe a libertarian case can be made for civil unions among homosexuals,” Frad continued, “but when you say stuff like this, the way the world hears you is, ‘Homosexual acts are not disordered and the Catholic Church has changed its opinion on this.'”
“Francesco” is a documentary showcasing the life of Pope Francis and the global political and social issues that the Vatican has faced under his leadership. The director, Evgeny Afineevsky, secured exclusive interviews with Pope Francis for the production of the film.
It premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday and was awarded the “Kineo Movie for Humanity Award” on Thursday in the Vatican Gardens.
“Francesco” is scheduled to premiere in the United States on October 25th at the Savannah Film Festival.