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Pope Francis has certainly done a good job of media relations in giving the Vatican a more people friendly image than it has projected in recent years. Many people including me were skeptical as to whether that meant any actual change in rigidly conservative doctrinal and political positions. Now there is news from Brazil that something that amounts to real change might be happening.

One Of Brazil’s Top Bishops Endorses Civil Unions For Same-Sex Couples

The secretary general of the National Confederation of Brazilian Bishops endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples in an interview published this week in the magazine O Globo.

“There needs to be a dialog on the rights of shared life between people of the same sex who decide to live together. They need legal support from society,” Bishop Leonardo Steiner said.

Steiner made clear the church still opposes marriage for same-sex couples, which Brazil’s National Council of Justice made legal last year. “The difficulty is in deciding that marriages of people of the same sex are equivalent to marriage or family,” Steiner said, adding that he believes the measure should have been voted on by congress instead of being enacted by the judiciary.

This is the first national church leader to endorse the concept of same-sex civil unions since Pope Francis said in April that there was a possibility the church could give its blessing to certain arrangements, though they would have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

This is significant for the fact of some change at all. It is certainly a cautious statement as compared with the tide of actual events in the US and Europe. However, this is Latin America where the Catholic still carries a good bit of political clout,

The Catholic hierarchy is faced with a real organizational problem. Under the last two popes the official positions of the church remained stubbornly unchanging while the opinions of a majority of church members in the US and Europe have changed rather radically and are more often than not in sync with the 21st C. In other parts of the world members are still more inclined to adhere to official teachings. American Catholics often seem comfortable in just ignoring the official pronouncements and going about their business.  

Originally posted to Richard Lyon on Sun May 25, 2014 at 03:40 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Kossacks for Marriage Equality.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well, I guess we'll see. (14+ / 0-)

    When nuns make statements like this, they're suppressed rather ruthlessly.  When a male bishop makes a statement like this . . . well, let's see whether he's reassigned sometime soon.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Sun May 25, 2014 at 03:56:43 PM PDT

  •  Except where the church forces the issue (9+ / 0-)

    as they have done with odious teacher contracts in Cincinnati where in order to continue with employment, teachers must renounce their own principles, their own family, and their own beliefs, and knuckle under to the church's "standards".

    "American Catholics often seem comfortable in just ignoring the official pronouncements and going about their business.  "

    “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

    by ahumbleopinion on Sun May 25, 2014 at 03:58:42 PM PDT

    •  People who work for the church (5+ / 0-)

      are in a different situation. I was talking about people who are free to make their own personal choices.

    •  One diocese does not an entire Church make. (10+ / 0-)

      I teach in a Catholic school, and I certainly don't have anything like that.

      And I'm in the Chicago Archdiocese.

      "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

      by zenbassoon on Sun May 25, 2014 at 04:10:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Certainly doesn't. (6+ / 0-)

        This is interesting for speculation that it might be a papal trial balloon.

        •  Let us see them float that balloon in (0+ / 0-)

          Catholic owned hospitals where non-Catholic patients are being forced to comply with catholic theological tenets.

        •  The pope already had a trial balloon of his own: (0+ / 0-)

          On behalf of the Vatican, Fr. Thomas Rosica released the following statement regarding certain interpretations of the interview:

          "There have been numerous questions, calls and messages throughout the day today regarding Pope Francis’ recent interview in the Italian daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera, particularly referring to the section on marriage and civil unions.  Some journalists have interpreted the Pope’s words in the interview to reflect an openness on the part of the Church to civil unions. Others have interpreted his words to be addressing the question of same-sex marriage. I have consulted with Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, throughout the afternoon and have prepared the following notes on Pope Francis' interview.

          Asked specifically about “unioni civili,” (civil unions), Pope Francis responded:

          "Il matrimonio e' fra un uomo e una donna.  Gli Stati laici vogliono giustificare le unioni civili per regolare diverse situazioni di convivenza, spinti dall'esigenza di regolare aspetti economici fra le persone, come ad esempio assicurare l'assistenza sanitaria.  Si tratta di patti di convivenza di varia natura, di cui non saprei elencare le diverse forme.  Bisogna vedere i diversi casi e valutarli nella loro varieta'."

          My translation:

          "Marriage (matrimony) is between a man and a woman. Civil states want to justify civil unions in order to regulate (normalize) different arrangements of cohabitation; - prompted by the necessity of regulating (normalizing) economic aspects among people, for example in providing health insurance or benefits. This consists of different kinds of living arrangements which I wouldn't know how to enumerate with precision. We must consider different cases and evaluate each particular case.”

          [It is important to understand here that “civil unions” in Italy refer to people who are married by the state, outside of a religious context.]

          So depending on how you want to interpret it, the pope is trying to draw a distinction between a legal marriage and the religious rite of "holy matrimony."
      •  There's issues in the Diocese of Oakland CA (5+ / 0-)

        regarding a statement that teachers "must live according to Catholic principles" in the new contract -- does that mean that teachers who use contraception can get fired? Or those who have sex outside of marriage and someone finds out (even if there's no pregnancy)? How much control can an employer, even a religious employer, have on an employee's private life?

        There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

        by Cali Scribe on Sun May 25, 2014 at 06:00:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Though that might actually end up being (0+ / 0-)

          a good thing in the long run if they start doing routine blood tests for birth control pills.  Even more so if some churches start requiring such tests before allowing a person to have communion.

          You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

          by Throw The Bums Out on Sun May 25, 2014 at 08:05:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Has an Orwellian "Big Brother" feel to it, (0+ / 0-)

          this set of questions. Or maybe a Spanish Inquisition feel... So, would a female teacher have to provide a letter from her doctor if she were prescribed contraception for reasons other than birth control? And can you imagine single archdiocese employees being tailed to make sure they do not engage in extramarital sex? How much proof, and of what nature, would satisfy an inquisitor?
          Stepping back, I can't help but notice that the Catholic Church has historically stepped so far away from acting in the image of Christ that I see many American Catholics ignoring church, as opposed to Christ's, teachings and actually serving as better examples of essential, as opposed to fundamentalist, Christianity.

  •  I read stuff like this (7+ / 0-)

    and I can only think about the world ending. Literally. It is just one, big slippery slope from here, because lbgt rights are directly tied-in with women's rights. And think how ardently catholic higher-ups and their sympathizers work to restrict the lives and choices of women, dreading their participation in society in any but traditional gender roles.

    It's all giving way.

    Thanks for the diary.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sun May 25, 2014 at 04:09:35 PM PDT

  •  And what he's saying does NOT go against doctrine. (9+ / 0-)

    He's only talking about "legal arrangements".

    NOT marriage.

    As we all know, "civil union" is code for "separate but equal".

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun May 25, 2014 at 04:11:03 PM PDT

    •  I know that but it is a political (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gffish, allie4fairness, Ahianne

      shift. I am pretty certain that Francis is not interested in making any head on doctrinal changes.

      I have about as negative opinion of the official order of the RCC as anybody. What interest me is the situation of people with general progressive views who remain affiliated with it. I am presently trying to step back from my protestant upbringing and get a better grip on that.

      •  Why are progressives affiliated with the Church? (7+ / 0-)

        Social Justice and Labor.

        Read Rerum Novarum.

        It was written during the height of the Gilded Age

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

        by zenbassoon on Sun May 25, 2014 at 04:29:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There are some significant differences (6+ / 0-)

          between to conservatism of the RCC and fundamentalist like the SBC. The latter are fundamentally anti-intellectual about most things, evolution, the biological realities of LGBT makeup, etc. The RCC attempts to balance science and doctrine. In doing so they often wind up making convoluted arguments that are reminiscent of trying to count how many angles can dance on the head of a pin, but it does give a different flavor.  

        •  That's one reason (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The other is to ensure the church isn't taken from us and handed over to people like SSPXers without firing a shot. A lot of our fore bearers left when Vatican II didn't pan out. But some of us held in, because we're still here, and if we linger, they can't take the church from us.

          Rick Perry - the greatest scientist since Galileo!

          by Bobs Telecaster on Sun May 25, 2014 at 07:32:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  "written during the height of the Gilded Age" (0+ / 0-)

          And look at how effective it's been.... actually, it might as well have never been written at all. It certainly didn't put much of a dent in the Gilded Age.

          Perhaps progressives would progress a little bit faster without this sort of "support."

          This is the landscape that we understand, -
          And till the principle of things takes root,
          How shall examples move us from our calm?

          (Mary Oliver, "Beyond the Snow Belt.")

          by sagesource on Mon May 26, 2014 at 02:25:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  But Marriage is a Legal Institution. It Is Civil. (8+ / 0-)

      Neither Jesus nor the Pope can marry anyone in any state of the US or territory without a government license. And anyone married with a government license, neither the Pope nor Jesus can do anything about them.

      And they can jump up and down all afternoon on the surface of the sea and they still can't marry anybody without the government license.

      If he's willing to take his club out of the business of blocking governments from opening their institutions to all their citizens, who cares what his club decides about its members?

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun May 25, 2014 at 04:30:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's both (0+ / 0-)

        Civil and religious recognition of marriage aren't the same.  This is much more obvious when it comes to divorce.  The Catholic Church still doesn't recognize civil divorce when it comes to its own rules for allowing Catholics to remarry in the Catholic Church.  If you don't care to marry in the Church that doesn't matter oh but it sure does matter to families many, many times and the disputes go on as they have for hundreds of years.  

        It's an absurd expectation to think the Catholic Church is going to have a simple answer to gay marriage when it is still requiring people who have been married and had children to annul a previous marriage before they can remarry.

        The Catholic Church never recognized my grandmother's marriage and she was married over 50 years, had two children who were themselves married over 50 years and are now still devoutly Catholic into their 90's nearly 100 years after the marriage the Catholic Church has still never recognized as a valid marriage.

        •  Actually it looks like this Pope (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          karmsy, Rashaverak, Ahianne

          might be looking at changing the rules on divorced Catholics who remarry:

          I've seen several refugees from the Catholic Church join the Episcopal Church for this very reason.

          There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

          by Cali Scribe on Sun May 25, 2014 at 06:06:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  But are they also refugees from their own mothers? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            LordMike, Ahianne

            I swear I couldn't recognize my mother the tizzy she went into over getting my brother's fiancé to annul a starter marriage that hadn't lasted 2 years and brother was nearly 40 at the time!  It's the family stuff that makes it all insane.  But I always say the Catholic Church is horrible at weddings but wonderful at funerals.  So there you go.  Ritual and tradition link us together and tear us apart.  This is not all taken care of by the civil law which come to think of it doesn't do funerals however busy it gets probating estates.  

    •  Maybe not in Brazil (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WineRev, Ahianne

      In France every one has a civil marriage then if they wish the one in the Church. What if Brazil went to a similar arrangement?

      There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

      by Cali Scribe on Sun May 25, 2014 at 06:03:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Back to the Future! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, Cali Scribe

        In the early centuries of the Christian church, couples wishing to marry would do so in front of a minor Roman official (think "justice of the peace.")
        According to Roman law they were now married.

        If said couple were also members of that new-fangled religion called "Christianity" (as opposed to ALL the other religions running around the Roman Empire), they would inform the presiding/convening person in their community.
        (Sometimes done publicly, sometimes done secretly, depending on whether a given Emperor was persecuting the early Church or tolerating it). Said convening/presiding person (not yet called a priest/bishop or ordained) at the next gathering of the community would announce said marriage (in the past tense) and, upon request, offer a blessing upon the new couple.

        End of "Sacrament" of Marriage, ca. 200 A.D.

        This pattern continued far into the Middle Ages. Couples would get married in front of the local authorities, then have the union blessed by the Church. Sometimes the wedding would take place on the front steps of the church (since the Church was legal now and was allowed to own property and build buildings) on a Sunday morning as the congregation was gathering. After the local magistrate "pronounced them man and wife" the couple would walk in for the morning worship service and receive a blessing.

        Finally the Church took over the whole wedding business ("thars money to be made there!") and converted the whole thing into a "sacrament" (to establish more or less a monopoly position).

        Given its administrative/legal roots rather than its Scriptural/religious roots, this accounts (because religious bodies preserve everything just the way it was, until it isn't anymore) for the very formal and LEGALISTIC language of the wedding ceremony. A couple examples:

        "Who gives this woman in marriage?" means "What male relative (father/brother/cousin) who has legal standing (since only men had any legal rights at all) by public declaration in front of everybody here RENOUNCES all legal claim and authority over this woman?"
             After Daddy/Bro/etc. said "I do" he, having led in the bride, would hand the bride's hand into the hand of the priest. This male personage would then hand her hand into the hand of the groom, showing this female person with no legal position at all and who was utterly dependent (legally) on a male in her life, never stood alone and had such a male in her life.
        (This also shows also the desperate situation of widows, particularly if they were past middle age. They had no legal standing and no legal protector. It accounts for several letters of St. Paul (New Testament) that call on the church community to remember and support the widows among them.)

               "If anyone (male) know of any (legal lien or claim) reason this man or woman should not be married (move into a new legal status) let him (someone with legal rights) speak now or forever hold his peace." This meant anyone who had a legal claim (e.g. term of apprenticeship yet unfulfilled/ existing but perhaps secret marriage in another place) had this last, public chance to assert their claim on their contracted person. Otherwise, the claim was nullified for good. (This accounts for lots of eloping.)

        So, if at a very traditional wedding, you thought you suddenly entered a gathering of lawyers for a reading of a contract, your thinking and recognition skills are correct.


        "God has given wine to gladden the hearts of people." Psalm 104:15

        by WineRev on Mon May 26, 2014 at 05:17:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Pope (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, gffish, Bronx59, Jay C

    I'm Jewish, so I'll ask the question--Doesn't the Pope have the right==the power--to change doctrine?  Isn't he the most powerful of all leaders?  He talks a  good talk, he hasn't done much walking.  Has he decided to re-allow clerics to run for political office?  That would be an important first step.  Anyone remember Father Drinin (spelling is wrong)?  Remember when catholic clerics were the strongest force for change in Latin America?  

    Actions speak louder than petitions.

    by melvynny on Sun May 25, 2014 at 04:31:23 PM PDT

    •  Papal infability (7+ / 0-)

      was a relatively recent concoction by I think Pius IX in the 19th C. While it hasn't been denounced, nobody has felt able to use it in a long time. Usually the way that basic doctrinal changes come about is with a church council such as Vatican II.

      •  The "II" in "Vativan II" is telling. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melvynny, Ahianne

        It was only the second Vatican Council in the history of the church. The first was held in 1868, convened by Pius IX. The council developed responses to modernism, rationalism and the rapid social changes in modern industrial societies with secular governments. The doctrine of Papal infallibility was defined and codified thusly:

        The dogmatic constitution states that the Pope has "full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church" (chapter 3:9); and that, when he "speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals" (chapter 4:9).
        325 years before Vatican I, the Council of Trent was held in response to the Protestant Reformation. About twenty Lateran and Ecumenical councils have been held since the year 50 CE. Most of the early ones hammered out compromises between the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Roman Church in the west.

        These earlier councils were called in response to overwhelming outside pressures and crises. Most of the early councils were called by Emperors. The first and second Vatican Councils were unique in that the Popes personally called for them and used their decrees to put their own stamp on Church doctrine.

        I started with nothing and still have most of it left. - Seasick Steve

        by ruleoflaw on Sun May 25, 2014 at 07:03:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The problem for the Church is that its (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bronx59, Rashaverak

      theology on women and on marriage is bound up in set of assumptions that aren't going to be easy to reverse.  It's not like repealing a law.  It's more like rewriting an article of the Constitution.  So they are going to need some brilliant and creative theologians to figure out how to unravel this and the spirit does not seem to have moved any to do so just yet!

      •  Maybe they could arrange an appearence (4+ / 0-)

        by the BVM saying unto the assembled host...

        It's time to put a stop to this sexist crap!


      •  The Church decided, contrary to Scripture (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melvynny, ssgbryan, skrekk

        and after more than a thousand years, that they could forbid priests to marry, with much more severe penalties than for having a mistress. For example, in the twelfth century wives and children of married priests were to be taken away and enslaved, in addition to .

        Centuries later, they could decide that the Earth orbiting the Sun was heresy, and within a century after, that it was not.

        So they can, in fact, decide anything that they want to badly enough. It's all magical thinking, untethered to any facts, and especially not tethered to anything Jesus or the Apostles supposedly said, much of which we know to be made up.

        The problem for the Church is that they have been too successful in their missionary work, and that Catholics in Asia and Africa are often far behind Church members in Europe and the Americas in matters related to sex, marriage, and family planning.

        Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

        by Mokurai on Sun May 25, 2014 at 07:28:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I wonder if two "innovations" might help. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        One is a more extensive and spiritually/intellectually honest examination of scripture, to uncover where church doctrine is in error. The other is (get ready to duck and cover) an equally extensive and spiritually/intellectually honest search outside of church doctrine and scripture...

  •  Very interesting Q and A in bulletin today (5+ / 0-)

    It asked about the history of celibacy in priests. The answer: It didn't always happen, it wasn't dogma but mostly tradition...and amazingly, the answer included the fact that it saved money on salaries! (In fact, it dates back to the Church's reluctance to have church lands subject to inheritance.)

    That answer itself told me that they are "softening the blow" and a big change is coming.

    •  Interesting they would even bring up the question (0+ / 0-)

      The choice on married priests seems to be to accept them or become a much smaller splinter of Christianity.  The debate seems to be open, but could take 50 years or more.

      Googling "viri probati" provides 13,000 items of discussion.  

    •  One of the books in the New Testament (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rashaverak, Ahianne

      even said that a bishop (church leader) should be "husband of one wife", so obviously married clergy was A Thing back then.

      With the Catholic Church taking in priests ordained in the Anglican/Episcopal tradition and allowing them to become Catholic priests while keeping their wives/families, it's only a matter of time before they lift the celibacy restriction and allow Catholic priests to marry -- most likely before they open the door for women priests. It will likely give them a larger pool of candidates from which to choose future priests and will help alleviate the priest shortage here in the US.

      There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

      by Cali Scribe on Sun May 25, 2014 at 06:16:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not because of the pope but the reality of the (0+ / 0-)

    times that as regards same-sex marriage, that ship has sailed. (Also, traditionally Brazillian prelates have been among the most progressive.)

    Pope Francis said, "I am a son of the church" meaning he would adhere to the same doctrines as his two predecessors:

    However, his "donors" also know that the influence of the Catholic pope and prelates is being diminished by their stonewalling something that is now generally accepted i.e. same-sex marriage.

    As always, it has nothing to do with morals but what is expedient to the cause of their ability to support the plutocracy.

  •  The foundation of the RCC (0+ / 0-)

    has been cracked since the first stone was set over the pagan shrine to Mithra to build the Vatican.

    Here is the pattern... the Catholic church sees a movement in society that they realize they can't stop, so they suddenly reverse themselves and try to own the issue and come out of it like heroes.  They did it with science too.

    I don't trust any of this, and I have history to back up my suspicions.

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