Pope Francis has called for legislation to protect same-sex couples, according to comments he made in a new documentary that mark a break from Catholic doctrine.
“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They are children of God and have a right to a family,” the pope said in an interview in the documentary Francesco, which premiered Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival. “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”
Francis noted he has stood up for civil unions before, but his remarks in the documentary go beyond what he has said previously and sharply diverge from the view of his predecessors. LGBTQ rights groups hailed the comments as a major step, but, along with conservative religious groups, they raised questions about the context of the quotes delivered in a movie and how much weight the comments held.
Before he became the pontiff, then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Bergoglio opposed same-sex marriage legislation but supported some level of legal protection for same-sex couples.
Shortly after becoming pope in 2013, he made big headlines when asked about reports of gays in the clergy, Francis answered, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
It was a shift in tone from traditional Catholic teaching.
In 2003, the Vatican’s office on doctrine — under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI — taught that “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.” Placing them on the same level as marriage, it added, would mean approval of “deviant behavior.”
Advocacy groups representing LGBTQ people welcomed Francis’ new remarks.