No, The Pope’s Stance on Gay Civil Unions Is Not “Revolutionary”

There has been a great deal of press this week regarding Pope Francis’ declaration in a documentary endorsing civil unions for gay couples.

Some are calling it an “important step,” which in one sense may be true — i.e., in the sense of gradually updating a hopelessly out of date institution. In another sense, however, this whole thing is a bit of a smokescreen.

To explain why I think so (apart from the fact that LGBT people have been struggling in the US for civil union rights at least since the 1970's — making this not “new” at all), let’s first look at what Francis is quoted as having said, via CBC:

Granted, before I pick that apart, it is important to recognize that baby 👶 steps are better than no steps. And changes that happen gradually are usually more lasting than those that are sudden… And all change has to start somewhere.

That said, despite moving the needle somewhat on public acceptance, the pope is not endorsing gay marriage. He is not welcoming LGBT people to come celebrate the sacrament of their love within the church.

He is saying it is strictly a civil matter, and therefore outside the purview of the church.

“That way they are legally covered,” is a nice sentiment, but a cop-out, especially coming from the man who literally has the authority to change ecclesiastical law and practice by declaration.

When I read the statement, coming from the head of the Catholic Church, “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family,” I also read the unstated theological assumption behind it: that they have the right to be in a family, but they do not have the right to start a family.

To back that up, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Canon Law plainly state, in Section 1601:

As here defined, marriage is only between a man and a woman, and its purpose is procreation.

Sadly, this inherently denigrates infertile couples, who despite otherwise “fitting the mold” are unable to procreate, through no fault of their own. Not to mention fertile couples who choose not to procreate, or unmarried couples who do.

It also, in my opinion, side-steps and does not take literally enough the sanctity of ALL human life, no matter its origin or up-bringing, which is also encoded in the Catechism, Section 2258:

If life comes from the “creative action of God,” who is its “sole end,” and the express purpose of marriage is for the procreation and education of offspring, and the good of the spouses, then what need have we any longer to restrict the nature or status of the participants in this mystery?

Further, the Catechism, Section 2378 also asserts that children have the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents.” Presumably, under this supposed theological system, children born outside this narrow definition are somehow lesser?

I’m sorry, but that is fucking stupid.

If that’s not stupid enough, 2379 reads:

So infertility is not considered an “absolute evil” — wow, how magnanimous. <sarcasm>

Doesn’t this wording seem to imply, however, that its… I don’t know… still evil?

How about it’s not evil at all — full stop?

And furthermore, adoption need not be a “last resort” for the infertile. It can be a righteous charge taken up by anyone committed to the well-being of a human life.

If you think I’m reading this in a way that is non-canonical, I encourage you to poke around among so-called Catholics who promulgate this type of hateful nonsense, and do so in the name of the Church with apparent impugnity:

Now, that’s just one person’s opinion, and is not necessarily what the Church itself would say — or is it?’s about page explains:

So, if what they assert is true, then the Catholic Church has literally no problem telling people that fertility treatments are evil. Because what is encoded in official Church doctrine is not all that far off.

Pretty revolutionary, if you ask me! <sarcasm><sarcasm><sarcasm>

In closing, there is a famous legend of St. Francis of Assisi, after whom Pope Francis took his name. The story goes that after visiting Pope Innocent III to gain official approval to start his own order of mendicant monks, Innocent some time later had a dream about St. Francis, which is depicted in the Giotto di Bondone in the painting above:

Perhaps Pope Francis sees his own spiritual mission as a contemporary equivalent, to fulfill the commandment to “rebuild my church,” that St. Francis of Assisi supposedly received from God.

While I can’t question anyone else’s relationship to what they think is the divine, it does beg the question: is this an edifice which is even worth re-building?

We have ample evidence, after all, for how the Church actually treats those children who it teaches are a creative expression of God. What moral authority do they have left to deign to teach us about literally anything?

It might just be that an even more radically Christian response— or even simply a more humane and just one—would be to tear down all the corruption, rot, and hypocrisy, and start anew.

Now, that would be revolutionary!

If the Pope is worried about causing a schism in the Church by allowing LGBT to fully participate in the life of the Church, I say let it happen.

Let him be the one to reverse the image of St. Francis as the humble repairman, and instead disassemble the cracked edifice brick by brick, in order to better serve the Lord of life.

And let those who cling to exclusion and malice and call it religion be caught out and swept aside.

Canadian Author & Historian of Quatria

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