Pope: Same-sex couples should be covered by civil union laws

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    Controversial stand. Conservatives want Pope Francis to explain his stand on same-sex couples.

    ROME. — Pope Francis has said that same-sex couples should be protected by civil union laws in the clearest language he has used on the rights of gay people, prompting praise from liberals and calls for urgent clarification from conservatives.

    He made his comments in a new documentary “Francesco” by Oscar-nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky that was released on Wednesday.

    “Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it,” he said.

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

    The pope appeared to be referring to when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires and opposed legislation to approve same-sex marriages but supported some kind of legal protection for the rights of gay couples.

    The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are. It teaches that homosexuals should be treated with dignity but is opposed to gay marriage.

    President Duterte favors the passage of a law recognizing civil union of same sex couples in the country, his spokesman Harry Roque said.

    “The President have said it over and over again, pabor po siya sa isang batas na magri-recognize ng civil union sa mga parehong same sex relationships (The President have said it over and over again, he is in favor of a law recognizing the civil union of those in same sex relationships,” Roque said.

    Roque said it would, however, depend on Congress if they would pass a law anytime soon.

    Filipino bishops, meanwhile, were in shock and disbelief over the statements coming from Pope Francis endorsing same-sex civil unions, the first leader of the Catholic Church to do so.

    Sorsogon Bishop Emeritus Arturo Bastes said the reported statement from the Pontiff goes against the long standing teachings of the Church.

    “For me, this is a shocking statement coming from the Pope. In my opinion, this is contrary to Divine Law, which explicitly permits only the union of man and woman or of opposite sexes of male or female, whatever that union is: civil, legal, or sacramental,” said Bastes.

    “I have very serious doubts about the moral correctness of this latest statement of Pope Francis. I am really scandalized by his defense of homosexual union, which surely leads to immoral acts,” he added.

    Also expressing their disbelief were Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon, Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, and Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani.

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

    “Pope Francis’ clear and public support for same-sex civil unions marks a new stage in the church’s relationship with LGBTQ people,” said Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of “Building a Bridge,” a book about Catholic ministry to homosexuals.

    “It shows his overall pastoral approach to LGBTQ people, including those who are Catholic, and sends a clear message to those bishops and Church leaders who have opposed such laws,” Martin told Reuters.

    Conservatives demanded a clarification.

    “The Pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the Church about same-sex unions. The Church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships,” Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, said in a statement.

    Ed Mechmann, director of public policy of the Archdiocese of New York, said in a commentary on its website that the pope was mistaken, adding “supporting the legal recognition of any kind of same-sex union is contrary to Church teaching.” – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Gerard Naval