When Pope Francis was elected to the Holy See, many were disappointed with his—how shall we say—less-than-tactful statements in opposition to gay marriage. But a recent article in the New York Times reports that in 2010, when Argentina’s government was debating same-sex marriage, Pope Francis (then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio) actually advocated, much to the chagrin of his fellow bishops, that the church in Argentina support civil unions for gay couples.
The authors of the NYT piece praised Francis for his pragmatic ability to compromise—not a virtue highly honored in the Catholic Church. But I wonder if there isn’t something else going on. I get it why, to someone in the news media who may not have any other categories for understanding it, advocating for civil unions might look like a compromise of the Catholic Church’s moral opposition to same-sex marriage. But, as many of us have been trying to point out, there is a distinct difference between the Christian sacrament of marriage and what states do with tax codes, property law and adoption rights. Is it possible that, instead of compromising his morals, Cardinal Bergoglio was acting out of a nuanced theological position that locates the biblical prescription for marriage in the ecclesiological/sacramental practice, rather than in some ethereal natural law theology?
I really don’t know. But I cannot help but wonder.