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S.F. archbishop responds to Pope’s endorsement of same-sex unions

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 10/22/2020 By Lauren Hernández

The archbishop of San Francisco, who has long vocalized his opposition to same-sex marriage, doubled down on Wednesday in response to Pope Francis’ endorsement of same-sex civil unions.

Pope Francis, in a new documentary, stopped short of supporting marriage of same-sex couples, a right that is legal in the state of California and across the United States. In “Francesco,” a documentary that premiered Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival, the pope said, “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” according to Associated Press reports.

“You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this,” Pope Francis said. “What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

He is the first pope to endorse same-sex civil unions. His comments garnered mixed reactions among the Catholic community, including from San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

In a statement to The Chronicle titled “The Role of Civil Unions,” Cordileone reiterated his opposition to same-sex couples marrying and said the “topic of civil unions came up in conversation” with Pope Francis last January during a visit to the Vatican.

“The Holy Father clearly differentiated between a civil arrangement which accords mutual benefits to two people, and marriage. The former, he said, can in no way be equated to marriage, which remains unique.” Cordileone said. “I would add that a civil union of this type (one which is not equated to marriage) should be as inclusive as possible, and not be restricted to two people of the same sex in a presumed sexual relationship.”

Cordileone went on to say that, “There is no reason, for example, why a brother and a sister, both of whom are unmarried and support each other, should not have access to these kinds of benefits.”

He said that marriage is “unique because it is the only institution that connects children to their mothers and fathers, and therefore is presumed to be a sexual relationship.”

“The nature of marriage, the place of sex within a virtuous life, these great teachings of the Church come to us from God, are illuminated by reason, and do not change,” Cordileone said.

He has been quoted as saying “the ultimate attack of the Evil One is the attack on marriage.”

Cordileone helped raise more than $1 million to put Proposition 8 on the state ballot in 2008, which banned same-sex couples from marrying. A federal judge struck down the ban, calling it unconstitutional.

Ernest Camisa, a board member of Dignity/San Francisco, an “LGBTQI church in the Catholic tradition” told The Chronicle that Pope Francis is “heading in the right direction supporting gospel values, but I am afraid that the rest of the church will resist the changes.”

“I know there are many bishops in the church that have a different mindset, and would be reluctant to support Pope Francis's views on same-sex unions and would find excuses not to treat us in the LGBTQI community as equals. The word ‘marriage’ would be one of those excuses,” Camisa said.

Camisa also asked for clarity on whether the pope regards same-sex marriage in the United States as “just another form of civil unions?” Camisa said, “Let us hope that the word ‘marriage’ in civil law does not block us from being treated equally as everybody else in the church.”

Chronicle staff writer Vanessa Arredondo contributed to this report.

Lauren Hernández is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @ByLHernandez


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