John M. Becker

Francis and Civil Unions: PR Stunt or the Real Deal? [Open Thread]

Filed By John M. Becker | March 05, 2014 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Catholic Church, Catholicism, civil unions, flip-flop, gay marriage, marriage equality, open thread, Pope Francis, relationship recognition, same-sex marriage

francis.jpgIf you've been poking around the Internet and/or social media today, you may have seen headlines like this one from ThinkProgress: "Pope Francis Suggests Support For Civil Unions."

Sounds amazing, right? But as I've written many times before here at Bilerico, the media has a long history of overreacting to LGBT-related statements Francis makes in a misguided effort to force-fit him into the broader narrative of the sea change on LGBT rights. So to avoid prematurely draping a pride flag around this pope, I decided to click through and dig deeper.

Turns out the "Francis signals support for civil unions" thing is based on remarks the pontiff gave in an interview published today by the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera and translated by the Catholic News Service:

"Matrimony is between a man and a woman," the pope said, but moves to "regulate diverse situations of cohabitation (are) driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care." Asked to what extent the church could understand this trend, he replied: "It is necessary to look at the diverse cases and evaluate them in their variety."

On the one hand, this is far, far from any kind of an overt, explicitly pro-civil unions statement. Then again, he's clearly discussing relationship recognition of some kind.

Francis's personal history on the topic is somewhat mixed. Details, after the jump.

In 2010, as Argentina marched toward marriage equality, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as Francis was then known, was the country's most outspoken opponent of marriage equality. He even referred to same-sex marriages as the work of Satan.

Yet behind the scenes, Bergoglio quietly and reluctantly endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples as an anything-but-marriage compromise. (Argentina later legalized marriage equality anyway.)

But just two months ago, in response to speculation in the Italian media, the Vatican unequivocally denied that Francis supports civil unions.

So I want to know what you think: is the media overreacting once again to Francis's remarks, reading something into them that's not really there? Is it another public relations ploy designed to make it look like the Catholic Church is making progress without actually changing anything?

Or do you think the pope actually does support civil unions for same-sex couples, and is sending up a trial balloon today to see how such a shift in position would be received around the world?

Sound off below.


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