October 22, 2020

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.

And the inevitable shade to Amy Coney Barrett:

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