Pope’s remarks call for open debate

Pope’s remarks call for open debate

Pope Francis greets people as he leaves after the weekly general audience, at the Vatican, October 21, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Pope Francis’ remarks, which seemingly endorse homosexual marriages, have created a flutter within the Catholic church and outside. The teaching of the Catholic church and Vatican policies have till now stoutly disapproved homosexuality which is considered by them as unnatural and sinful. But the Pope’s words mark a break from the past and a willingness to take a new look at entrenched ideas and policies.

The Pope did not make an official announcement of change of policy as the head of the Catholic church. He was only heard making the comment in a documentary film on his own life. The words are: “Homosexual people have a right to be in the family. They are children of God. Nobody should be thrown out of the family… over this. What we have to make is a law of civil co-existence, for they have the right to be legally covered.’’

Pope Francis is known to be more liberal than his predecessors on many issues on which the Church has held strong positions for centuries. He has been considered a revolutionary and a disruptor by many. He had once wondered who he was to judge “if someone was gay and was searching for the Lord’’. The comment this time is more specific because he has acknowledged that a homosexual person has the right to be in a family, which is an important social unit in the Church’s view of the world. But there is some lack of clarity in the statement.

There is a view that he has only said gay people should be welcomed in their own families and should not be cast out but has not yet approved their wish to have their own families. He has said that homosexual people are also children of God, but the question whether he would agree to a gay marriage would still be debated, till he clarifies the matter. But it will be noted that he has indicated his support for members of the LGBT community to enter civil marriages.

The Pope’s endorsement may not mean acceptance of his views by the Church. Some senior clerics had already expressed views similar to the Pope’s in the past. They have been welcomed by some sections in the Church but have created confusion, bewilderment and even opposition among others, especially traditionalists. The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council has said that there is no change in the Church’s stance on same-sex marriage. But the Pope’s views are certainly bound to have an impact sooner or later because of his numero uno position in the Church.