Pope Francis endorses civil unions for same-sex couples

Published: Oct. 23, 2020 at 6:27 PM CDT
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FOX VALLEY, Wis. (WBAY) - Earlier this week, the world learned Pope Francis was the first pontiff to publicly endorse same-sex civil unions.

"I think it’s gigantic, said Helen Boyd.

Boyd, an instructor of gender studies at Lawrence University who was raised Catholic, says Pope Francis has stated his support of same-sex civil unions in the past, but this time is different.

“But that he said it in such a way that everybody heard it finally was important,” said Boyd.

A documentary used comments from Pope Francis in which he said LGBTQ people have a right to be in a family and that there should be a civil union law so they are legally covered.

“To hear you are welcome, you are wanted, is a big deal,” said Karen E. Park.

Park is an associate professor of theology and religious studies at St. Norbert College, a Catholic school, Both Boyd and Park believe the pope isn’t changing the sacrament of marriage within Catholic faith, but rather opening the door to change.

“I think some of what he said that’s far more important was his emphasis on the fact that LGBTQ people are children of God, that’s a giant statement, and that they deserve families,” said Boyd.

“Marriage as a sacrament - no he’s not changing that. But perhaps he’s leading a change in the way gay and lesbian families are treated within the church and that would be very, very welcome,” said Park. “I would say he is not contradicting previous teachings but what he is doing, and what it’s his right to do, is set a tone.”

Boyd pointed out that the pope has a global audience.

“So in the U.S. marriage might be the pressing issue, but right now in Poland, which is a very Catholic county, there’s been a big push for laws against LGBTQ people and I’m hoping that what the pope has said might slow that down a little bit or even reverse that,” said Boyd.

Pope Francis’s tone and the overall message in his words, to both educators, is what’s most important considering the treatment some LGBTQ people face today.

“One of the most pressing issues is it’s still true that most - many, many LGBTQ people are thrown out of their families, disowned by families, young teenagers are tossed out of the house for being LGBTQ,” said Boyd. “And I think that’s honestly where what the pope had to say should have the most influence.”

It makes people miserable and he’s basically saying these are people who want to raise families who want to be part of a family, both making one themselves [and] the church family, and we should not be making them miserable and that their family should be legally protected," said Park.

Park pointed out that this year marked the second Coming Out Week celebration held at St. Norbert College. So to her, the pope’s remarks are validating those already interpreting the teachings the same way.

“To know that the pope is saying well because these are part of the family and they should not be miserable, and whether you’re a college student or whoever, you should feel loved and welcomed in a Catholic setting I think that, that’s going to matter,” said Park.

To matter not just in maintaining families, but in promoting kindness toward all of God’s children.

“I think the most important thing is he is modeling a way of understanding, of being, of speaking to and about these issues that will have a lasting impact,” said Park.

“I really do hope that what he has to say makes, certainly specifically for me, American Catholics pay more attention to what he’s saying and to re-examine their own spiritual practice,” said Boyd.

Action 2 News did reach out to the Green Bay Diocese but they declined to comment.

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