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Pope Francis’s statement may tie into his support of civil unions 

In July of 2013, Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge,” when asked about Theodore McCarrick, “the defrocked and disgraced American cardinal who was the subject of a two-year Vatican investigation that was released last week.”

Many are relating his statement to the recent investigation release, but I wonder if it better relates to the documentary titled Francesco, which was released on streaming services in late October. It quickly made headlines across many big news corporations as a few different quotes from the Pope Francis stunned viewers.

Which quotes exactly? Well, in the documentary, a Pope Francis says gay indivudals should be treated fairly. 

You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.” This quote has since caused a major uproar. Those in support of civil union laws and those against them certainly made their voices heard. 

Many in the LGBTQ+ community have been rejoicing, as they see this as a sign of things changing for the better. CNN reported, “The Pope’s compassion is a welcome sign from a religion that has long alienated LGBTQ people. Whether part of an active ploy to lure back disaffected congregants or a genuine statement of inclusion, his words are a helpful evolution for the many LGBTQ people who have been ostracized simply because of who they are and who they love.

However, the Vatican didn’t stay quiet. On Oct. 30, a statement by the Vatican’s Secretary of State said, “The Holy Father had expressed himself thus during an interview in 2014: ‘Marriage is between a man and a woman. The secular States want to justify civil unions to regulate various situations of coexistence, moved by the demand to regulate economic aspects between people, such as ensuring health care.” 

The Vatican clarified that the documentary quote was specifically about civil unions in Argentina — not about legalizing same-sex marriage.

“It turned out, Francis’ comments were apparently taken from a May 2019 interview with Mexican broadcaster Televisa that were never broadcast,” said the Chicago Tribune. “The Vatican hasn’t confirmed or denied reports by sources in Mexico that the Vatican cut the quote from the footage it provided to Televisa after the interview, which was filmed with Vatican cameras.” 

AP News said the Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis was referring to “his position in 2010 when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires and strongly opposed moves to allow same-sex marriage. Instead, he favored extending legal protections to gay couples under what is understood in Argentina as a civil union law.”

While the question of where the quote originated still remains unresolved, the effect of the statement still rages on. 

Beyond this, Pope Francis still supports the idea that homosexuals should be treated fairly and that same-sex marriages are provided with legal protection. This is different from legal recognition or approval of homosexual behavior — as distinguished in a document from the Vatican’s doctrine office in 2003 — yet, it remains that this is a major step for the leader of the Catholic church. 

This paired with his “Who am I to judge” statement has caused the Vatican to be divided. Some have praised Pope Francis while others have criticized him. The New York Times stated, “Many gay Catholics and their allies outside the church welcomed the pope’s remarks, though Francis’ opposition to gay marriage within the church remained absolute.”

As The Wall Street Journal summarized, “The pope’s words, though not part of his official teaching, will likely put pressure on Catholic bishops in the developing world to tolerate legal recognition of same-sex unions and oppose anti-homosexuality laws.” As many Catholic churches are facing this issue, Catholics are struggling to decide what to stand for.

Around the world, many Catholics are split in standing for equality toward those who are gay and those who aren’t. This is illustrated through a Pew Research survey where they reported that, “In the United States, about six-in-ten Catholics (61%) said in a 2019 survey that they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry.” With the majority not in opposition, a clear divide has been drawn. 

However, the message of treating everyone equal and leaving only room for God to judge has remained a strong point for Pope Francis. Despite this shocking news, many still hold Pope Francis in high regard due to his kind personality and open mindedness. 

With the recent “Who am I to judge” statement resurfacing due to the release of the investigation and the October documentary, I think the protection of the civil laws make a large impact. With this, the LGBTQ+ community is able to thrive and not be afraid to be with those whom they love without facing some injustice. Having that open mind like Pope Francis is more beneficial to everyone than not having any legal protection for those who are different. We are to love everyone, especially those whom we don’t agree with. And that is something that is needed now more than ever. After all, who are we to judge?