Pope Francis’ Disappointing Comments in the Midst of Italy’s Debate on Recognition of Same-Sex Couples Signal Refusal to Change Church Teaching
Speaking to a group of Vatican judges as Italy’s Senate prepares to vote on recognizing civil unions for same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples, Pope Francis said that the recent Synods on the Family tell the world “there can be no confusion between the family God wants and any other type of union.” The Pope added, “The family, founded on indissoluble matrimony that unites and allows procreation, is part of God’s dream and that of his Church for the salvation of humanity.” He affirmed that the Church continues to propose marriage “in its essential elements – offspring, the good of spouses, unity, indissolubility, sacramentality.”
“This statement from the Pope is sure to dishearten many who believed he was open to new thinking about committed, loving relationships between lesbian and gay people,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, a leading organization of Catholics working for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. “‘Who am I to judge?’ is out the window. The Pope has judged our relationships, our marriages to be inconsistent with the Divine Plan. This is the clearest statement yet that Pope Francis and other Catholic officials will continue to lead the charge to prevent either civil or sacramental recognition of same-sex relationships.”
Duddy-Burke added, “We hope, for the sake of our sisters and brothers in Italy, that Catholic lawmakers there will follow in the footsteps of Catholic politicians in many other countries, and vote to ensure that lesbian and gay couples and their families have the same protections and responsibilities as other couples, and will support the civil unions bill when it comes up this week.”
Duddy-Burke noted that the Church is still waiting for Pope Francis to issue his final statement on the Synod on the Family that concluded in October 2015. Many Catholics had hoped the Pope’s response would introduce modest changes to how the Church dealt with LGBT people, including those who have been legally married. “At this point, I expect that we will see more of what we have been struggling with throughout the last two Papacies—a continued sense of LGBT people and our families as damaged, second-class, and more sinful than other people,” Duddy-Burke said. “It’s frustrating that the people of God recognize LGBT people and relationships as blessed, but our Church’s leaders are blinded to this reality.”
Duddy-Burke said Pope Francis seems to believe he can create an atmosphere in which LGBT people continue to be part of the Church, despite continuing to be seen as essentially “disordered.” She pointed to the Pope’s statement in his speech that while the Church “proposes to declare the truth on marriage in a concrete case, for the good of the faithful, she keeps in mind at the same time those who, by their free choice or through unhappy circumstances live in a state of objective error, continue to receive Christ's merciful love, and therefore that of the Church herself.”
“I truly believe that Pope Francis is trying to bring a pastoral approach to ministry to LGBT Catholics, and to many other people,” Duddy-Burke said. “However, statements that start from the assumption that we need mercy, rather than celebrating our giftedness, are unhelpful to people who have had to overcome religious and social stigma in order to embrace the truth of who God created us to be.”
DignityUSA is the nation’s foremost organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Catholics and their allies. It is a founding member of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.