Children of God

Pope Francis has often rattled the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, with his fresh and at times controversial messages. His recent statement on same-sex civil unions, which appear in the documentary “Francesco”, was bound to perk up people’s ears regardless of which side of the issue they stand on.

Pope Francis was quoted midway in the documentary, which premiered at the Rome Film Festival last week, saying: “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God 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.”

Before we make too big a deal of the Pope’s statement, we wish to emphasize that questions have arisen if he was indeed quoted accurately or if what he actually said had been taken out of context through mistranslation or manipulated through editing.

Let us also not forget that the Catholic Church is not just the Pope. It is also made up of the church’s teachings and doctrines, of its faithful (the Catholics), as well as the cardinals and bishops who make up its hierarchy.

“The pope’s support for civil unions does not change Catholic doctrine about marriage or sexuality. The church still teaches—and will go on teaching—that any sexual relationship outside a marriage is sinful and that, in the Catholic view, marriage—different from civil unions—is between a man and a woman,” wrote Steven P. Millies, in an article that we featured in our Faith section last Sunday (“Pope Francis’ support for civil unions is a call to justice—and nothing new” published in The Conversation).

Millies said Pope Francis has signaled support for civil unions before, prior to his papacy, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.

“So in an important sense, there is nothing to see here—nothing new. Yet Francis’s message here does matter,” Millies said, stressing the Pope’s statement calls on Catholics “to take note that they have to be concerned about justice for all people, including those in the LGBT community.”

Same-sex unions are a recurring debate in a lot of countries, not only in the Philippines, which is one of only two predominantly Roman Catholic nations in Asia and the third largest Roman Catholic country in the world.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman, Atty. Harry Roque, said the President has long expressed support for same-sex civil unions, and, indeed, he has.

He attended an LGBT gathering in Davao City in 2017, where he said: “I want same-sex marriage. The problem is, we’ll have to change the law, but we can change the law.”

Changing this particular law, however, seems easier said than done, even for a President whose words are often immediately translated into actual votes in Congress, be it when choosing the House Speaker or having a TV station shut down.

Pending before the Committee on Women and Gender Equality of the House of Representatives are House Bills 1357 and 2264, which seek to recognize same-sex partnerships.

These bills seek to change the Family Code’s definition of marriage in the country as a union only between a man and a woman, to allow couples to enter into a civil partnership whether they are of the opposite or of the same sex, and to provide civil rights, benefits and responsibilities to couples, previously unable to marry, by giving them due recognition and protection from the state.

Just like the Pope’s recent statement, these measures are also not new. Similar bills have languished in past Congresses and were never passed.

Senate President Tito Sotto said he doubts whether the Pope’s words will have an effect on legislation in the Philippines, noting that while not legally recognized, same-sex marriage is already practiced here in the country.

“It’s just tolerated but not in the legal sense. We should leave it at that. Baka mapaginitan pa (It might be a subject of ridicule),” he told CNN Philippines in an interview.

It is interesting to note though that many of the countries that have decided to make same-sex unions legal are predominantly Roman Catholic, including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Argentina, Portugal, Brazil, France, Uruguay, Colombia, Malta, Luxembourg and Ireland.

But Sotto is right. Whether the Pope’s recent endorsement—if it was indeed that—would have much sway in Congress for Catholic legislators to finally legalize same-sex unions here is doubtful. Nevertheless it is good to have this debate out in the open, to gauge the public’s sentiments on the issue.

Who knows? God works in mysterious ways and a lot of strange things have happened not only in politics but even in the evolution of the Catholic Church.

Image credits: Jimbo Albano


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