The Brisbane Times reported recently that it appears that Pope Francis, just one year into his tenure as the Vicar of Christ on Earth, may be hinting tacit support for gay civil unions.
In an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in Milan, marking his one year anniversary as pope, Francis said, "Marriage is between a man and a woman." That sounds clear enough. But the Times and other outlets saw some wiggle room in the pope's further statements.
"Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between persons, such as ensuring health care," he said. "It is about pacts of cohabiting of various natures, of which I wouldn’t know how to list the different ways. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety."
Even some members of the clergy saw this as a softening in the Church's approach to the topic of gay unions.
Father Claude Mostowik said, "I'm sure it gave people at least comfort to see a human, compassionate way of approaching this issue."
But other voices in the Church were quick to backpedal on any perception that the pope's statement meant some change in doctrine or stance.
The Times later reported on a statement from Archbishop Christopher Prowse, who said that he felt the pope had been "misinterpreted."
"A willingness to dialogue isn't a willingness to compromise," the Archbishop said, indicating that he thinks the pope was simply talking about being open to discussions.
But Bishop Peter Comensoli saw another angle. He thinks that the pope "recognizes individual situations and all sorts of positions people are in. In terms of other arrangements, and those in de facto relationships, we respect the laws of the state," he said. "We understand these arrangements are often around things to do with economic relations between people and questions of care and health."
The Church, or at least some of the more traditional voices in it, have found themselves trying to soften certain statements of Pope Francis in the past year. Their "I don't think that's what he really meant" rebuttals seem to be doing little to quell the excitement people feel over the more welcoming atmosphere that is being engendered by Pope Francis' rule.
Image via Wikimedia Commons