ROME — In a recent interview with an Italian newspaper, Pope Francis suggested that he could see Rome permitting some forms of homosexual civil unions when it comes to medical care and property for those living in sexual sin, although he did not come out in support of same-sex “marriage.”
Francis told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that “matrimony is between a man and a woman,” but efforts to “regulate diverse situations of cohabitation [are] driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care,” according to a translation by Catholic News Service.
“It is necessary to look at the diverse cases and evaluate them in their variety,” Francis said.
While the remarks were far from endorsing same-sex marriage, something Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI have spoken out against, they represent the latest in what many Catholics and church observers have read as a more “gay-friendly” tone of the church under the pope, who was elected nearly a year ago.
In an interview last summer, Francis drew global attention when he said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” He also explained last September in an interview with the Italian magazine La Civilta Cattolica that he believes the Roman Catholic Church needs to find a “new balance” in reaching unbelievers, rather than focusing predominantly on the issues of homosexuality and abortion.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he said. “I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
While some have viewed the Pope’s remarks as seeking to be more conciliatory toward those who identify as homosexuals—including homosexual magazines and various lawmakers who advocate for same-sex “marriage,” others have stated that Francis should be more vocal in calling men to repentance from sin.
Pastor William Webster of Grace Bible Church in Battleground, Washington told Christian News Network that although he has agreed with some of the pope’s statements over the past year, loving your neighbor means speaking the truth without compromise.
“When the pope proclaims, ‘Who am I to judge?’, he is failing to faithfully proclaim the word of God,” he said. “Certainly he is not the judge of men, but God is, and God has already spoken in His word with respect to homosexuality. He calls upon men and women to repent of their sin and to come to Christ for deliverance from its guilt, condemnation and bondage and to be reconciled to Him.”
“The Church is called to stand for truth—to be faithful to Christ. It does not change its convictions to adapt to the prevailing opinions of the culture so that it does not offend men in the hopes that it can attract them,” he continued. “We need to deal with men in love but we also need to speak the truth. This is how we proclaim Christ to a changing generation.”
Thomas Rosica, a consultant to the Vatican, asserted that the pope’s latest statements don’t really say much on the issue of homosexuality.
“We should not try to read more into the pope’s words than what has been stated in very general terms,” he told reporters. “In his response to the interviewer, he emphasized the natural characteristic of marriage between one man and one woman, and on the other hand, he also spoke about the obligation of the state to fulfill its responsibilities towards its citizens.”
Photo: Edgar Jiminez