Pope Francis' declaration that the Catholic Church could tolerate some types of civil unions in no way means he is moving towards accepting gay marriage, says Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
"He'll never accept gay marriage. That's off the table," Donohue told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"What he said was that he could understand why, in some circumstances, secular states might look at this question."
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This week, the Pope indicated that some civil unions might be recognized as a way of protecting healthcare and property rights
"Matrimony is between a man and a woman," the pontiff told the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera in an interview published Wednesday and translated by the Catholic News Service.
But moves to "regulate diverse situations of cohabitation [are] driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care…. It is necessary to look at the diverse cases and evaluate them in their variety."
Donohue said there is merit to the idea — as long as it stops there.
"I live with civil unions provided that it wouldn't go any further.... How many of us really care about whether or not two people of the sex have visitation rights and some other things of that nature? I mean, I'm okay with that. I don't think that does any damage or devaluing of the institution of marriage," he said.
"My problem with gay marriage is that it makes it part of a smorgasbord. It makes it an alternative lifestyle. So you have cohabiting straight people, you have married straight people, you have cohabiting gay people, you have married gay people, you have polygamists. Where do you stop with this? What about Tom, Dick, and Harry?"
Donohue said an approval of gay marriage could open the floodgates to other types of nontraditional relationships.
"Once you say that two men can get married... what is the limiting principle there where you could say no to a brother and a sister?" he said.
"I'm not expecting a big flood of lawsuits of brothers and sisters. I'm simply saying I don't think that the people who support gay marriage have thought through this. They should have a principle and they don't....
"Marriage is about children and they seem to get lost in this discussion."
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