Responding to widely-reported remarks by Pope Francis, who expressed support for same-sex civil unions, Bahamas Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder said in a statement last night that “proposing laws for the protection of those in same-sex civil unions neither changes the church’s teaching on marriage nor its teaching on homosexuality and by no means does it devalue the Sacrament of Marriage”.
“Rather it seeks to ensure that society, through its laws, respects the dignity of all, including those of the LGBTQ community,” Pinder said.
The pope’s remarks on same-sex civil unions were made in a documentary that premiered on Wednesday.
The New York Times quoted the leader of the Roman Catholic Church as saying: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”
According to NBC News, the pontiff also stated: “They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or made miserable because of it.”
The New York Times noted the pope’s remarks “had the potential to shift debates about the legal status of same-sex couples in nations around the globe and unsettle bishops worried that the unions threaten what the church considers traditional marriage — between one man and one woman”.
Archbishop Pinder noted that the pope’s statements were translations from the original language of the documentary and said that must be taken into account.
“While we are aware of these media reports, we note that no official statement has been made by the Holy See about them up to this time,” Pinder said.
“The context of these remarks is the pastoral care of LGBTQ persons. This is characteristic of the pastoral style of Pope Francis, who seeks to include and to accompany all persons within the pastoral care of the church.”
Around the world, the pope’s remarks were welcomed by gay Catholics and others.
But Pinder said, “These statements by no means represent any change or modification in the church’s understanding of marriage which it holds to be a sacrament.”
He pointed to the church’s teaching regarding marriage: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of spouses and the proclamation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”
Pinder said a spirit of inclusion and pastoral care for everyone is characteristic of the approach of Pope Francis, and it is quite clear in his most recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship.
He cites the parable of The Good Samaritan as a model for social relationships marked by the “flavor of the Gospel”, the archbishop noted.
The pope states: “The parable shows us how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion and act instead as neighbors… for the sake of the common good.”