Pope calls for civil unions for same-sex couples

26 October 2020

Tim Dieppe, Christian Concern’s Head of Public Policy, comments on the Pope’s recent remarks in support of civil union laws for same-sex couples.

In an astonishing break with Catholic doctrine and teaching, the Pope has expressed his support of civil union laws for same-sex couples.

Remarks in a documentary

The remarks were made in a documentary about the life and ministry of Pope Francis which premiered last week in Rome. In the film, Pope Francis said:

Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.

He then added:

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

Ambiguity about family

There is considerable ambiguity which may be deliberate in these remarks. Everyone would agree with the first portion of what he said. Everyone should be part of a family and not be thrown out. All people should be loved and respected and welcomed in their families as far as possible.

However, in the context of discussing family, the Pope went on to state that homosexual couples should have legal civil unions. This implies that his definition of family would include homosexual couples. By referring to a civil union in the context of family like this he implies that he supports a redefinition of family that strikes at the foundation of Christian doctrine and sexual ethics.

There can, of course be legal protection for all sorts of long-term friendships and supportive relationships such as brother and sister, or mother and daughter, or aunt and niece. Such legal protection, for inheritance and property rights for example, can be helpful, but should clearly not mimic marriage.

Catholic priest James Allison has explained that the Pope called him to affirm his priesthood as an openly gay man. He welcomed the Pope’s remarks and interprets them to mean that the Pope, “affirms the rightness of same-sex couples forming a family and being part of the family of the church.” The Pope must have known that this is how people would understand what he said.

Contravenes Catholic teaching

A Catholic teaching document issued in 2003 makes clear the doctrinal position on homosexual unions. It states:

“There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.”


“The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”


“All Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

The Pope clearly contravened this teaching by expressing support for the legal recognition of homosexual unions.

Where next?

Lifesite News points out several times when Pope Francis has expressed tacit support for liberalising church doctrine on homosexuality. For example, he has expressed support for conferences featuring pro-LGBT speakers, including a public supporter of same-sex ‘marriage’. He has even endorsed the sex change of a woman who wanted to become a man.

These latest remarks are the clearest expression of his disagreement with established church teaching. The Pope is supposed to uphold church teaching, not seek to contradict it. Areas such as the definition of family and sexual morality should not be open for question.

It will be interesting to see how the Catholic Church reacts to these remarks. The Catholic Church does not have a good reputation in the area of sexual abuse by priests. For the church to move towards supporting homosexual relationships would be evidence of open corruption at the highest levels. Yet many grassroots Catholics are faithful to church teaching. This raises the question of a possible split in the Catholic Church.

We will have to watch developments as they unfold. Meanwhile, the Pope’s statement is unhelpful for Christians of all denominations or none who are seeking to uphold Biblical sexual ethics and morality.

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