Pope Francis: Is Civil Union for Catholics Possible

By Julissa Catalan

In an interview with an Italian newspaper, Pope Francis hinted that the Catholic Church could soon accept a type of civil union for LGBT couples.

“We have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety,” he said. “States, for instance, justify civil unions as a way to provide financial security to cohabitating couples. State-sanctioned unions are thus driven by the need to ensure rights like access to healthcare.”

Despite the apparent open-minded approach to civil unions, the Pope reaffirmed the church’s stance on same-gender marriage by saying “marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Pope Francis also supported LGBT parishioners and clergy back in July when asked for his opinion on gay priests: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge” He also said that the church should not interfere in the spiritual lives of the LGBT community.

Pope Francis is one of very few religious leaders who have spoken about same-gender relationships in a progressive manner. People are hopeful that this is a first step to having more open discussions about controversial issues in relation to Catholicism.

In his interview, Francis said, “The situation in which we live now provides us with new challenges which sometimes are difficult for us to understand,” adding that the church “must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them.”

According to The New York Times, Pope Francis has supported civil unions for same-gender couples since he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010.

As part of his extended interview with Corriere Della Sera, Pope Francis was asked about topics ranging from contraception and abortion to women’s roles in the church, as well as last year’s sexual-abuse scandal within the clergy.

Regarding birth control, the Pope said the church must be “merciful and attentive to concrete situations.” However, he did praise Pope Paul VI for having the “courage to go against the majority” when he reinstated the ban on contraception in 1968. The ban on contraception and on divorced Catholics’ receiving communion is said to be a topic for discussion in the upcoming Catholic bishops’ meetings in 20142015.

The Pope also hinted at upcoming changes regarding the role of women in the church, stating that there is a big “reflection” happening internally regarding this topic. “Women must be present in all of the places where decisions are taken,” he said, noting that the church needs to consider more than “functional” roles for women.

Though he acknowledged the “very deep wounds” left on children as a result of the abuse by clergy members, he went on to defend the Catholic church when questioned. “The Church is the only one to be attacked,” he said, adding that the church has done more than other institutions to be transparent when it comes to its employees and the scandal itself.

A report by a United Nations committee last month, however, stated that the Vatican, “has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.”

March 13 will mark the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis becoming Pope.

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