In a new documentary, Pope Francis has called for creating civil union laws. The pontiff gave what many are calling his clearest support to date for the rights of gay couples while veering away from the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
“What we have to create is a civil union law,” Pope Francis said in the movie.“ That way they are legally covered” he added in the film released in Rome on Wednesday.
Francis’s comments does not necessarily change Catholic doctrine. However it does represent a dramatic shift for a church that has fought in opposition to gay legal rights. In the past, popes have called gay marriages both inadmissible and deviant.
For a long time, Francis expressed interest in outreach to the church’s gay followers. However his past statements as pope have emphasized understanding and welcoming rather than actual policies.
Father Jim Martin, author and advocate for ‘LGBT Catholics’ told MSNBC that the Pope’s statements were “a historic step forward in the church’s relationship with LGBT people and LGBT Catholics.” He added that Francis is “opening up the door to people being approving of same-sex civil unions in the church.”
The statements made by the head of the Roman Catholic Church have the potential to alter the sentiment for some of its 1.3 billion followers. Some Catholic priests in certain parts of the world already bless gay-sex marriages, others are stationed in countries where homosexuality is outlawed.