Sometimes the media misses the elephant in the room, and this is clearly one of those occasions.
Buried within several news reports is the stunning revelation that Pope Francis, then Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, may have
quietly backed gay civil unions as an alternative to the gay marriage law that passed in Argentina in July 2010.
According to the new pope’s authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin, Bergoglio was politically wise enough to know the church couldn’t win a straight-on fight against gay marriage, so he urged his bishops to lobby for gay civil unions instead. It wasn’t until his proposal was shot down by the bishops’ conference that he publicly declared what Paulon described as the “war of God” — and the church lost the issue altogether.
Despite his conservatism, “Bergoglio is known for being moderate and finding a balance between reactionary and progressive sectors,” Paulon said. “When he came out strongly against gay marriage, he did it under pressure from the conservatives.”
Freyre, executive director of the Buenos Aires AIDS Foundation, wrote on his Twitter account this week that Pope Francis “knows that gay marriage isn’t the end of the world or the species.”
In addition, BuzzFeed reports:
When it became clear that stopping the marriage law would be impossible, the church may have tacitly given its backing to a civil union law as a way to head off the marriage bill. Senator Liliana Negre de Alonso, a member of Opus Dei and one of the politicians most closely linked to the Catholic Church, sponsored the civil union bill. (This would be like Rick Santorum having endorsed a civil union law in the United States.) It went nowhere. During the debate, the leader of the majority party reduced her to tears while calling her a “Nazi” for backing legislation that would create a “separate-but-equal” status for same-sex couples.
If it is true that Pope Francis tacitly supports gay unions, it would be a stunning shift in tone, which Pope Benedict articulated in strong language during his Christmas 2012 address to the Curia.
[UPDATED at 4:47 PM]
More information is coming in. This Spanish-language transcript was provided to me by an Argentinian friend Natalia Jacovkis. It comes from Federico Wals, Cardinal Bergoglio’s spokesman in response to the 2010 proposal to legalize gay marriage in Argentina:
No buscamos discriminar a las uniones de personas del mismo sexo. No tenemos una mirada fanática. Lo que estamos pidiendo es que se respeten las leyes. …Creemos que hay que plantear un proyecto de unión civil más completo del que existe, pero no de matrimonio.
[My translation to English] We are not searching to discriminate against same-sex unions. We don’t have a fanatic vision. What we are asking is that the laws are respected. We believe that we must propose more comprehensive civil union [rights] than currently exist, but not [gay] marriage