Pope Francis pressed the Catholic Church to support civil unions for gay couples in Argentina as a way to prevent the country from adopting same-sex marriages, a new report reveals.
As Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the new Pope believed civil unions were “the lesser of two evils” and acceptance would head off pressure in the country to allow homosexual couples to wed, The New York Times reports
His handling of the issue may give an insight to his leadership style that will likely mix an embrace of the church’s positions on core social issues with a willingness to compromise with opposing sides, the paper said.
Francis’ approach is in dramatic contrast to Pope Benedict XVI, who was known for a strict adherence to church tenets and spent 25 years as the chief enforcer of church doctrine before being named Pope. In contrast, the new Pope’s experience serving the faithful directly sometimes led him to a different approach to serving real-world problems.
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While a majority of Argentina’s bishops voted to overrule him, handing him his only defeat in his six-year tenure as head of the country’s bishops’ conference, he often displayed a keen ability to embrace the opposition and reach out to critics, showing them respect, the Times reports.
Argentina eventually voted to allow gay marriage in 2010 despite the church’s opposition.
Bergoglio’s negotiating ability has many wondering whether he may come to embrace civil unions as Pope. However, his public stance against Argentina’s law, which he called a “destructive pretention against the plan of God,” stoked anger among gay rights leaders in Argentina who said that while he often displayed a more pragmatic side in private, in public he often took a much harsher tone.
Argentina is known as one of Latin America’s more socially liberal countries. Although three-quarters of the nation is Catholic and Roman Catholicism remains the official religion, only about 33 percent consider religion a very important part of their life.
Since Argentina approved gay marriage in 2010, more than 1,000 gay couples have married there and tourism catering to gay and lesbian travelers has grown, something that has put the country at odds with Rome.
“This is something that Rome cannot forgive, tolerate, or allow to advance,” one priest told the Times.
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