Toronto Diary
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Pope Francis on civil unions: ‘lesser of two evils’

Considering that past popes’ views on homosexuality and gay marriage have ranged from “pretending it doesn’t exist” to “it’s a sin and you’re going to burn in hell forever,” the bar for progressive views has been set pretty low for Pope Francis. At this point, he could say something like “gays aren’t that bad, I guess” and he’d still be one of the most progressive popes to ever come out of the Catholic Church.

According to a new piece from The New York Times, back in 2010, Pope Francis gave the most lukewarm endorsement for civil unions ever when he told a group of colleagues that civil unions was slightly less offensive to him than gay marriage. Sadly, that almost borders on progressive for the Catholic Church. Congrats on your D minus, I guess.

Argentina was on the verge of approving gay marriage, and the Roman Catholic Church was desperate to stop that from happening. It would lead tens of thousands of its followers in protest on the streets of Buenos Aires and publicly condemn the proposed law, a direct threat to church teaching, as the work of the devil.

But behind the scenes, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who led the public charge against the measure, spoke out in a heated meeting of bishops in 2010 and advocated a highly unorthodox solution: that the church in Argentina support the idea of civil unions for gay couples.

The concession inflamed the gathering — and offers a telling insight into the leadership style he may now bring to the papacy. 

On one hand, I give the barest minimum of kudos to him for almost sort of being progressive about this, but then not really. Truly, you have earned your D minus (the gentleman’s F!). On the other, I’ve gone over this before, but civil unions are a neutered version of marriage that placates those who don’t have full equality by giving them a way to commit to someone legally but with far fewer legal benefits. So if the Catholic church actually wants to remain relevant and not end up a relic in the face of 21st-century knowledge, they may want to drop some of their more discriminatory policies in favour of combining scientific evidence with dogma.

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