Pope calls for civil union laws for same-sex couples, in major departure from Vatican doctrine

Henry Austin

Pope Francis called for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples in a documentary that aired in Rome on Wednesday, in a major departure from the position held by the Vatican’s doctrinal office.

“Homosexuals have a right to be part of the family,” the Pontiff said in “Francesco,” a documentary about his life, according to the Catholic News Agency. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

“What we have to create is a civil union law,” he added. “That way, they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favor of civil unions as pope.

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Papal biographer Austen Ivereigh told Reuters that his comments in the film were some of the clearest language the pope has used on the subject since his election in 2013.

Directed by Oscar-nominated Evgeny Afineevsky, a Russia-born Jew, “Francesco” depicts Francis as the great connector, placing him at the heart of a narrative that casts a wide net over some of the world's most pressing problems.

The documentary tackles other topical issues such as the growing rich-poor gap, racism, climate change, sexual abuse, migration, human trafficking, political polarization and relations between Christians, Muslims and Jews.

It also highlights the fact that he completely misjudged the scale and severity of the Church's sexual abuse crisis, and that he later publicly recognized his mistake and apologized.

Francis spoke in a section of the movie about Andrea Rubera, a gay man who adopted three children with his partner.

Rubera said that he explained to the pope in a letter that they wanted to bring the children up as Catholics in the local parish but did not know how they would be received. It is not clear where they live.

The pontiff telephoned him several days later, telling him he was moved by the letter and urging the couple to introduce their children to the parish but to be ready for opposition, Rubera said, adding that they took the advice and were happy that they did.

It also features Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean survivor of clergy sexual abuse. Cruz said that during their first meetings in 2018, Francis assured him that God made him gay.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.