This morning, a number of media outlets reported that during a documentary interview Pope Francis expressed support for civil union laws for same-sex couples to ensure that they are "legally covered." DignityUSA, the organization of Catholics committed to justice, equality and full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church and society, is cautiously optimistic about this development while acknowledging that details are still changing.
"We are anxious to see the full film, the context in which Pope Francis made these comments and whether the Vatican will make further comment on this story," read a DignityUSA press release. "Additionally, this is not the first time Francis has signaled an openness to civil unions; he voiced support of civil unions during his time as a bishop during Argentina's marriage equality debate."
"If true, the Pope's comments could represent an international game-changer and a major step forward for LGBTQI equality," said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA. "It would remove a key obstacle to LGBTQI inclusion in many places around the world, especially in areas where LGBTQI people are especially vulnerable to discrimination and violence. Civil union laws can provide essential legal protections to LGBTQI couples and their children. We hope that Catholic officials worldwide will work to provide essential legal and social protections for LGBTQI people and their families."
Duddy-Burke went on to say that while DignityUSA is pleased by the news report, questions remain about how the Pope's comments will fit in with existing Catholic teachings that condemn same-sex relationships as "intrinsically evil."
"We hope that Pope Francis will take steps to enshrine support for same-sex couples, LGBTQI individuals, and our families in official Catholic teachings and will work to formally end Catholic teachings that are hurtful to LGBTQI people," she said. "While the Catechism of the Catholic Church has long condemned 'unjust discrimination' against LGBTQI people, it still refers to 'homosexual tendencies' as 'objectively disordered.' This language continues to serve as the basis of so much discrimination, exclusion, violence and hate against LGBTQI people and our families."
Duddy-Burke added that as more people around the world continue to recognize marriage equality as a fundamental human right, "we hope that this development will represent a step towards full inclusion and legal protection of same-sex couples and their families, and not a compromise that allows some legal protections, but not full equality that marriage provides."
"Already, Catholics in many parts of the world have moved beyond the official Church, and have fully embraced LGBTQI people, their families and marriage equality in their communities," she said. "We hope and pray that Catholic officials will follow their example."