An LGBT Catholic ministry has “gratefully welcome[d]” the Pope’s support for same-gender civil unions, but has called on him to ensure that those partnerships receive the same recognition in the Church.

– A sign “that the Church is continuing to develop more positively its approach to LGBTQ issues”

“It is an historic moment when the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, long seen as a persecutor of LGBTQ people, moves in such a supportive direction for lesbian/gay couples and their families”, Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, said in a statement October 21.

DeBernardo was referring to remarks Pope Francis made in an interview for a new documentary, Francesco, which premiered in Rome on Wednesday.

In the film, the pontiff says: “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family… They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it”. He also adds that “what we have to create is a civil union law… That way they are legally covered”.

Though DeBernardo hailed the Pope’s words as a sign “that the church is continuing to develop more positively its approach to LGBTQ issues”, the director of New Ways urged the pontiff both “to apply the same kind of reasoning to recognize and bless these same unions of love and support within the Catholic Church, too”, and also to express “support for full civil marriage rights”.

“Since the pope framed his support for civil unions by saying that same-gender couples are ‘right to be a part of the family,’ it would not be a long stretch for him to do so”, DeBernardo noted.

The director of the LGBT ministry also pointed out that the Pope has in fact spoken out in favour of civil unions on at least two prior occasions.

During his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and again in an interview as Pope in 2017, Jorge Mario Bergogliio advocated for civil unions as an alternative to marriage equality.

But the Pope’s latest statements on civil unions will have a particular resonance in the US right now, DeBernardo said, where the Supreme Court is due to decide on the issue of whether legally-married lesbian and gay couples can adopt or foster children from Catholic social service agencies.

“If the pope supports such couples, what should prevent lower-level Catholic officials from doing so?”, the New Ways director asked.

Not only that, but Francis’ approval of gay couples will also will have an effect in the wider world “beyond church discussions and legal debates”, DeBernardo celebrated.

“When the pope says something positive about LGBTQ issues, he sends forth an enormous wave of goodwill to LGBTQ people, and, at the same time, teaches a positive lesson to people whose anti-LGBTQ views are religiously-based.

“It is no overstatement to say that with this statement not only has the pope protected LGBTQ couples and families, but he also will save many LGBTQ lives”, the New Ways director highlighted.

– ‘We Are Church’ Ireland “warmly welcomes… wonderful news”, “hugely significant step”

Also welcoming the Pope’s support for same-gender civil unions Wednesday was the Catholic reform group ‘We Are Church’ Ireland.

In a press release, We Are Church Ireland said it “warmly welcomes the wonderful news that Pope Francis supports civil unions for Same Gender couples”. “This is a hugely significant step for Pope Francis and the Catholic Church”, the group rejoiced.

However, ‘We Ar Church’ said that the Pope “must now act to revise teaching to allow blessings and remove hurtful language” in Catholic documents.

“We call on Pope Francis to follow up his words with actions to introduce church blessings for Same Gender couples and to revise teaching to remove the descriptions of LGBTQ+ people as objectively disordered and their love as intrinsically evil”, We Are Church Ireland asked.

– Analysis: read on the New Ways Ministry website “The Good and the Bad of Pope Francis’ Support for Civil Unions” by Lisa Fullam, professor at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, California

More on Novena on LGBT+ rights:

“Embarrassing”, “nonsense”: German priest blasts Catechism condemnation of homosexuality

Special to Novena: Gender identity should be no obstacle to priestly ordination

Priest goes viral with sermon backing ordination of women and blessing of gay couples, blasting Catholic “bouncers”

German bishop backs blessings for gay couples: “How can I refuse?”


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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.