Pope Francis Makes Big Progressive Moves in 2020

Pope Francis speaks out on civil unions and appoints new cardinal to the Roman Catholic Church


Photo by Ashwin Vaswani on Unsplash

Many members of the Catholic Church rally behind Pope Francis’s decisions this year

Many members of the Catholic faith strongly uphold the belief that homosexuality does not belong inside churches

On October 21st, a documentary titled “Francesco” drew the attention of both Catholics and non-Catholics as Pope Francis announced his support of civil unions between homosexual couples. In an era where accounts of discrimination make the news headlines almost daily, did Francis’ statements draw people closer together, or encourage even more controversy?

As we ramp up to the 2020 US election this coming Tuesday, tensions between the left and right are at their peak. Homosexual rights are a contentious political issue. In the documentary, Francis is quoted saying, “Homosexual people have a right to be in the family. They are children of God. They have a right to a family.” Although he has spoken on civil unions before, this message was more public and leans toward being in support of the unity of homosexuals.

Catholics around the globe were confronted by this shock, being forced to either question their allegiance to the Church, or follow Francis in his lead. Reagan Reed, who regularly attends St. James Catholic Church in Elizabethtown, KY has optimistic feelings about the announcement.

“[Pope Francis] is constantly doing things to be more inclusive and accepting of people, rather than striking down judgement on them like other popes,” she says.

Reed believes the overall message of the Roman Catholic Church can sometimes get skewed in the eyes of the people. Francis is making it blatantly clear that his intentions aren’t to pass judgement on people, more to give grace and acceptance among both Catholics and non-Catholics. She emphasizes that Francis tells homosexuals that God loves them and treats them with the kindness God would.

Reed is not alone in this idea. According to an article from the Pew Research Center, 61%, or about 6 in 10 American Catholics are in favor of allowing gay marriage. The numbers are much higher in Western Europe where 92% of people in the Netherlands, 78% in the United Kingdom, and 74% in France are in favor. Gay marriage is legal in the majority of Western European countries.

In the documentary, the quote may have been taken too far out of context, an article from The New Yorker suggests.

“A significant sentence was left out, however, so that Francis is heard approving of civil unions, but is not heard adding, “That does not mean approving of homosexual acts, not in the least,” reporter Paul Elie informs.

Regardless of the context in which Francis presented this information, his “support” of civil unions still sprinted through the media. He has not said anything else about the documentary since its release.

On October 25th Francis  made yet another important decision by naming Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, the first African American cardinal of the Catholic Church. He will step into the position at the Vatican on November 28.

Churches around the world are increasingly showing their support of the LGBT community

Cardinals rank directly beneath the Pope in the Catholic Church hierarchy and they serve to vote the next pope in when the time comes. Although this is undoubtedly their most important duty, cardinals act as the right hand men to the pope, counseling and advising his decisions while helping the government of the Roman Catholic Church. There are 219 cardinals in the Church today.

Francis’s involvement in progressivism may slightly lessen the gap in politics this year. While upholding the beliefs of his faith, he may be trying to bring the world together in some sense of solidarity instead of holding a neutral position in the matter. Acknowledging the importance of civil unions told the world that even though he doesn’t support the LGBT community, he doesn’t wish to take away their legal right to a family. Similarly, by anointing an African American man into the Church hierarchy, Francis is making a statement to the world saying that he is in favor of ending the discrimination against African Americans.

“I really like how progressive [Francis] is attempting to be in the very conservative climate of the Catholic Church,” Reed states as she looks at the decisions as a whole.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, Francis set an example of agreeing to disagree, exercising compromise over intolerance.