In a new documentary released Wednesday, the Pope openly and unequivocally advocated for same-sex civil unions as a means of legal protections for gay couples. The Washington Post writes that this position is a break from official Catholic teaching, but does nothing to alter Catholic doctrine.
“What we have to create is a civil union law,” the pope says in the film, released in Rome on Wednesday. “That way they are legally covered.”
Francis’s comment does nothing to alter Catholic doctrine, but it nonetheless represents a remarkable shift for a church that has fought against LGBT legal rights — with past popes calling same-sex unions inadmissible and deviant.
Francis’s statement is also notable within a papacy that on the whole hasn’t been as revolutionary as progressives had hoped and conservatives had feared.
The timing of the film's release is interesting, as the status of the rights of gay couples in the United States hangs by a thread. The ramming through of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett (a radical Catholic) would virtually guarantee the snipping of that thread. Any challenge to Obergefell — the case that legalized gay marriage — that came before Mitch McConnell's Federalist Society 6-3 court would certainly be successful.
Intentional or not, the timing of the Pope's publicly released pronouncement was certainly serendipitous, and drew high praise from many on this side of the Atlantic.
apparently the Pope is to the left of our Supreme Court nominee https://t.co/kGXPGkhtiF
— Jennifer 'Vote Early' Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) October 21, 2020
For those who think the Pope's comments about same-sex civil unions are no big deal: Perhaps in the US or Western Europe. But in places like Poland, where some bishops are virulently anti-LGBT; or Uganda, where bishops side with laws criminalizing homosexuality, it's a big deal.
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) October 21, 2020
Let's not let this awesomeness from the POPE go unnoticed! 🏳️🌈 https://t.co/9NBQ5CUxzs
— Jonathan Capehart (@CapehartJ) October 21, 2020
And the inevitable shade to Amy Coney Barrett:
So Amy Coney Barrett thinks she knows better than the Pope? Some catholic. https://t.co/bldGlNLNu3
— Akilah Hughes (@AkilahObviously) October 21, 2020
When the Pope, who I've heard is pretty Catholic, is more open minded and compassionate than your Supreme Court Justices, then you've got an Amy Coney Barrett problem. Congrats, Republicans. Keep being on the wrong side of history. I look forward to the Barrett > Pope hot takes.
— Wajahat "Wears a Mask Because of a Pandemic" Ali (@WajahatAli) October 21, 2020
"Fuck that guy" -- Amy Coney Barrett, soon.
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) October 21, 2020