The highest-ranking bishop in the Mexican Catholic Church has said he agrees with comments made by Pope Francis in support of allowing civil unions for same-sex couples.
Cardinal Carlos Aguiar, the archbishop of Mexico City, said in an interview with Reuters that he backs Pope Francis’s comments from a documentary that premiered in October using previously unseen footage from an interview the pontiff gave to Mexican broadcaster Televisa.
In those comments to Televisa, Francis — a liberal within the Catholic Church hierarchy — appeared to back the idea of allowing same-sex civil unions, even though such unions would not be consecrated by the Roman Catholic Church.
“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it,” Francis said.
“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” he added, noting that he “stood up” for civil unions during his time as a cardinal in his native Argentina, when the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was attempting to legalize same-sex marriage.
Francis, at the time known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was one of the most vocal opponents of the Argentinian same-sex marriage law, but allegedly advocated for civil unions in private among Catholic bishops, believing it to be a better compromise than losing the public relations war over marriage, according to The New York Times. The law ultimately passed.
But the Vatican later objected to the pontiff’s portrayal in Francesco, the documentary by Evgeny Afineevsky focusing on the pope’s approach to controversial social issues, claiming that the filmmaker had spliced together parts of the Televisa interview without proper context.
“More than a year ago, during an interview, Pope Francis answered two different questions at two different times that, in the aforementioned documentary, were edited and published as a single answer without proper contextualization, which has led to confusion,” the Vatican said in a statement, noting that the church has not changed its stance on same-sex unions.
Catholic doctrine states that the church’s support for gay people “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.” It also states that even though gay people are to be treated with dignity and respect, homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”
But Aguiar said he “completely” agrees with the pope’s statements that same-sex civil unions should be allowed to provide legal protections for same-sex couples, and that parents should not disown or abandon their LGBTQ-identifying children.
“Because if, as it happens unfortunately, a son in a family declares himself openly homosexual, then they don’t want to have anything to do with him,” Aguiar said, echoing the pope’s statements from the Televisa interview. “And that can’t be, it just can’t be.
“If they decide as a matter of free choice to be with another person, to be in a union, that’s freedom,” Aguiar added.
The archbishop’s declaration comes as a surprise to some, particularly in light of the Mexican Catholic Church’s traditionally conservative stances on social issues, and Aguiar’s vehement opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
However, Aguiar, like Francis, has also been a proponent of Vatican II, believing it to be a positive for the church. The ecumenical council of the 1960s led to widespread church reforms intended to reduce the distance between church hierarchy and the lay people they serve, and advocate for social justice measures designed to alleviate suffering and extreme poverty while promoting human rights abroad.
Aguiar has noted that the much work remains to address the poverty and inequality in Mexico and in Latin America.
“Latin America is the part of the world that’s most unequal,” he said, “and many of us here are Catholic! What kind of witness is that?”
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