Pope Offers Support for Civil Unions

By Mark A. Kellner
Posted October 27, 2020

Fresh from his negative remarks on capitalism and private property, Pope Francis has grabbed even more headlines around the world when reports surfaced of the pontiff’s support of civil unions for homosexual couples.

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it,” Britain’s The Tablet quoted the Roman Catholic Church leader as saying in a new biographical documentary, entitled Francesco. “What we have to have is a civil union law—that way they are legally covered. I supported that.”

The 180-year-old Tablet, one of the world’s most respected Catholic news voices, said of the remarks, “The papal endorsement is significant given that, in 2003, the Vatican issued a document setting out why it is ‘necessary to oppose legal recognition of homosexual unions’ because they ‘obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.’” 

That 2003 document, issued under the authority of Pope John Paul II, has not yet been revoked by the Vatican. It was co-authored by then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, who less than two years later became Pope Benedict XVI after the death of Pope John Paul II.

Now, not even two decades later—and while its co-author is still alive—the church’s current pontiff has gone on record opposing a documented church opinion. That’s interesting, to say the very least.


A Church Split Ahead?

But the reaction from the pews might well be the real story here.

As Jesuit priest Thomas Reese, writing at Religion News Service, noted, “The pope’s statement is irrelevant in the U.S. because the country has gone way past civil unions to marriage for gay couples, which is supported by 70% of Americans, including 67% of Catholics according to PRRI [Public Religion Research Institute].”

Reese added, “But in Africa, Asia and much of Latin America, his words will be politically and culturally revolutionary. In some African countries, homosexuality is a crime. Same-sex partners can be imprisoned and even killed.”

He predicted difficulty for Catholics in such continents as Africa who want to support Pope Francis’ opinion: “In countries where religious tensions are inflamed, this is not a problem the bishops want. … Remember how LGBTQ issues have fractured the Anglican Communion in Africa.”

In fact, the world over, millions of Episcopalian (the United States’ term for Anglican) members and thousands of congregations broke away from the parent body over its accommodation of homosexual members and clergy. By 2015, such moves cost the Episcopal Church fully one-half of its 1966 membership of 3.6 million people.

Will the Roman Catholic Church similarly find itself with emptier pews and collection baskets? Already, there are rumblings of dissent in the United States wing: The National Catholic Reporter, a lay newspaper with an admittedly left-leaning perspective, quoted Joseph Strickland, bishop of Tyler, Texas, as saying, “What’s getting broadcast around the world is Pope Francis’ opinion on this, and I think that is confusing and very dangerous.”


Francis or the Bible?

Hailed as a breath of fresh air upon his election as pope, Francis has taken a cutting-edge view of many subjects that traditional believers—whether Catholic or Protestant—might have difficulty supporting, like evolution.

“Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve,” Francis said, according to a 2014 Washington Post report.

The Bible nowhere suggests an evolutionary path for people—or for anything else God created—nor does it support so-called civil unions. Marriage was designed by God to be between one man and one woman (Genesis 1:27, 28), a fact emphasized by Jesus when He told the religious leaders of His day, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4–6).

And, in what critics call “clobber verses” but which remain the Word of God nonetheless, the Bible is exceptionally clear that homosexuality is not God’s will for humanity: “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10).

Ultimately, the Christian is faced with a choice: Which do you believe: the Bible or what a highly placed, well-respected member of the clergy says? Faced with a similar challenge shortly after the resurrection of Jesus, when local religious authorities commanded them to not preach the gospel, “Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29). Those words should be the believer’s credo today.

On Bible Answers Live, Pastor Doug Batchelor told one caller, “At the church that I pastor, we’ll welcome everybody through the doors. We’ll welcome not only people who might be tempted with the gay lifestyle, we’ll welcome people who are practicing to come and hear the Word of God. Whosoever will can come and hear the Word. … We practice open churches. We want people to find the truth.”

At the same time, Pastor Doug expressed a clear distinction between who is welcomed into the church and who is admitted as a member or ordained to the ministry. Listen to his comments—and if you disagree, feel free to post below.

Mark Kellner
Mark A. Kellner is a staff writer for Amazing Facts International. He is a veteran journalist whose work has been published in Religion News Service, The Washington Times, and numerous computer magazines.
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