Groups react to Pope Francis’ endorsement of same-sex civil unions

Groups react to Pope Francis’ endorsement of same-sex civil unions
Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Source: Remo Casilli/Pool Photo via AP)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Catholics and others continue reacting to Pope Francis’s support of civil unions for same-sex couples, as he is the first Pope to publicly do so.

Experts in the matter say that while the comments were significant, that may not do much in changing the church’s teachings.

During an interview for the documentary “Francesco,” the pope endorsed same-sex civil unions by saying in part: “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” adding, “What we have to have is a civil union law, that way they are legally covered.”

While the filmmakers say the Pope was not changing Church doctrine, it’s still a stance that goes against the Catholic church’s teachings.

“He wants too, very much, as we see Jesus doing in the Gospels, reach out to people who often feel like they are excluded," said Dr. John Grabowski, professor of Moral Theology and Ethics at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Grabowski says that this message is very on-brand for Pope Francis. During his service in Buenos Aires, the Pope was known for his endorsing of civil unions for gay couples, as an alternative to marriage.

James Millner of Virginia Pride says the Pope’s declaration was not insignificant, but also not revolutionary.

“It’s important to recognize that it’s not the same thing as same-sex marriage, so the Pope seemed to parse his words here very carefully,” Millner said. “Societies around the world, cultures around the world, religions around the world put a significant value on the term ‘marriage.’ This is not the same thing.”

Millner doesn’t foresee any immediate changes to the church’s ways - something that Grabowski echoes.

“I think for him its part of a strategy so that people will be willing to lean in and listen to the rest of the church’s message, and not simply feel as if the church is, as he says, imposing a set of rules on them or hurling judgment at them.”

The Diocese of Richmond sent this statement to NBC12:

“Not having had the opportunity to view the documentary or to hear the full context of Pope Francis' comments, Bishop Knestout and the diocese reserve offering any comment at this time.”

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