In a new documentary film titled “Francesco” and directed by Russian filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, Pope Francis revealed his support for civil union laws for same-sex couples in what many people see as a deviation from the conservative doctrine of the Catholic Church. The pontiff said LGBTQ folks are children of God and should be protected under civil union law just like every other couple in the world.
“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family,” Pope Francis said in the documentary. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”
The film premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday and will premiere at SCAD Savannah Film Festival in North America on Sunday. The documentary x-rays the pontiff’s work and views on many different issues such as migrants’ rights, economic inequality, global warming, and LGBTQs rights among others.
Before he became the pope, Francis had made it clear that he does not mind civil unions, but this is the first time he would explicitly declare his support for it and even make recommendations on how gays are to be protected under the law since he became pope. However, predecessor Benedict XVI does not approve of homosexuality and calls it “an intrinsic moral evil.”
One of the Church advocates for homosexuals, Jesuit Father James Martin, said the pope’s approval for the civil union of gays would encourage dissenting bishops around the world to reconsider their positions and accommodate the new view. He said the pope is not just tolerating same-sex marriage, but actually supporting.
But Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence in Rhode Island said the context under which Pope Francis made the endorsement is not clear and that the Catholic Church had always negated gay marriage. He said it is wrong for the church to support same-sex marriage even if the parties can be categorized as children of God and their civil rights respected under the law.
“The Church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships,” Thomas said. “Individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and must have their personal human rights and civil rights recognized and protected by law. However, the legalization of their civil unions, which seek to simulate holy matrimony, is not admissible.”
Director of public policy at the Archdiocese of New York, Ed Mechmann, stated that the pope erred in supporting gay union and that the ancient teachings of the church over the matter remains unchanged even despite the contrary views of Francis.
“In this case, I think we have to recognize that the Holy Father has plainly erred,” Mechmann wrote in a blog post. “Catholics cannot promote the legalization of same-sex unions. But we also have to be clear that he isn’t changing the teaching of the Church on homosexuality or same-sex unions in any way.”