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‘There is not anything illicit about it’: Community reflects on pope’s support for same-sex civil unions

| Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Pope Francis was featured in the documentary “Francesco” at the Rome Film Festival on Oct. 21. Interviews included in this documentary addressed issues of poverty, migration, racial equality and environmental sustainability. In addition to addressing these issues, the pope vocalized support for same-sex civil unions, becoming the first pontiff to do so.

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family,” Francis said in the film. “They are children of God. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

Although Francis endorsed these policies while serving as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he never came out publicly in favor of same-sex civil unions as pope until now.

John T. McGreevy, American historian and dean emeritus of the College of Arts & Letters, earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Notre Dame and currently teaches a course titled “History of Global Catholicism.” McGreevy shared what he believed this meant for Catholicism.

“The words as reported by Pope Francis were quite beautiful,” McGreevy said. “What I loved about the statement was him insisting that gays and lesbians are a part of our families and need to be welcomed as such,” McGreevy said.

While some critics of Francis believe his stance on same-sex civil unions threatens traditional marriage in the Catholic Church, McGreevy said he does not. To him, “it is sensible; there is not anything illicit about it.”

“Pope Francis is not saying anything about the theology of marriage,” McGreevy said, adding that Francis is not challenging any part of Catholic Tradition.

McGreevy also said Francis’ comments do not diminish the theology of marriage for heterosexual couples.

“I don’t think heterosexual couples’ marriages are devalued by giving legal recognition to same-sex partners,” McGreevy said.

McGreevy said Francis’ support for the LGBTQ+ community was a “positive step in the evolving relationship between the Church, gays and lesbians that are Catholic, and gays and lesbians that are not.”

McGreevy said he is hopeful about what this may mean for Catholicism.

“This may help push toward more social recognition and legal recognition of all relationships,” McGreevy said. “From my point of view, that would be a good thing.”

Junior Matthew Bisner also reacted positively to Francis’ recent vocal support of same-sex civil unions. Bisner serves as the judicial council’s president in the Student Union at Notre Dame, as well as the vice president of PrismND.

PrismND is Notre Dame’s first and only official LGBTQ+ undergraduate student organization. The organization is dedicated to embracing the campus LGBTQ+ community and raising awareness of their needs.

Bisner shared his experience with the Catholic Church and his reaction to the pope’s words.

“I am familiar with the Catholic church. I grew up in a Catholic family; I went to a Catholic school,” he said. “I know that this kind of language is so important to LGBTQ+ Catholics, but also to the youth who are desperately trying to find their place in a church that they have not historically felt comfortable in.”

Bisner said he hopes Pope Francis’ remarks will bring nations who have not been as accepting of the LGBTQ+ closer to the values found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: compassion, respect and sensitivity. Critics of the pope must remember the greatest commandment, the commandment of love, Bisner added.

“This calls for holistic love, love free of exclusion based on that which God has made them,” he said.

Bisner offered words of encouragement to those experiencing and hearing criticism on Francis’ remarks.

“There absolutely is a place for you within the Church and if you believe in communion with God and with Jesus, you are not wrong or corrupt just because you are LGBTQ+,” Bisner said.

Bisner added that Francis is showing love to the LBGTQ+ community.

“For Catholics, the highest commandment is love,” Bisner said. “Pope Francis is showing us what that means for the Catholic Church’s relationship with the LGBTQ+ community.”

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