One day after promoting the idea of a “tolerant and inclusive” society, Pope Francis I hinted at the Catholic Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, saying “the very basis of marriage” is being called into question.
The pope expressed his concern over the state of marriage during his speech on Thursday before a joint session of Congress and months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide.
“I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without,” Francis said. “Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.”
Francis never explicitly condemned same-sex relationships in his remarks, but that viewpoint would be consistent with the Catholic Church’s opposition to marriage equality. Even though Francis has taken a more moderate tone on LGBT rights, he has called same-sex marriage a “destructive pretension against the plan of God.”
Francis’ comments on marriage were but one part of a speech in which he generally promoted inclusion and helping the marginalized, invoking the Golden Rule that calls for individuals to treat others as they wish to be treated.
“Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves,” Francis said. “In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.”
Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said the Pope should apply this same logic of the Golden Rule to same-sex marriage and reproductive rights.
“We welcome Pope Francis’ advocacy for the ‘Golden Rule,’ which calls on everyone to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you,'” Carey said. “But this doesn’t seem to apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people and our families. Nor does it apply to the millions who need vital access to reproductive health services. We urge Pope Francis to use his position of immense power to create a truly welcoming and affirming church for all LGBTQ people — and to treat our families with dignity and equal respect.”
In other portions of his speech, Francis called for action on climate change, income inequality as well as compassion for immigrants and aid for the refugee crisis in Europe. Francis received significant applause from the pro-life majority in Congress when he issued a call to “protect and defend human life at every stage of its development,” but less applause when he took that logic to call for global abolition of the death penalty.
Francis spoke against fundamentalism “whether religious or of any other kind” in the context of violent extremism throughout the world.
“But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners,” Francis said. “The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.”
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said he thought Francis’ words on marriage were positive because the importance of family he stressed is the basis of same-sex marriage.
“I think the Pope’s declining to criticize gay couples seeking the freedom to marry and aiming to take part in and celebrate our own family life, and his pointed refusal to use right-wing buzzwords such as ‘one man-one woman’ is what really speaks volumes here,” Wolfson said. “The ‘very basis of marriage and the family’ Pope Francis speaks of is love — and it is time for our opponents to stop threatening and fighting against the love we all, gay and non-gay, aspire to and deserve.”