April 12, 2013 ( – Lieberal Catholic Vatican reporter John Allen, alleges that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, did propose “civil union” legislation as a “compromise solution” on the issue of homosexual “marriage” in 2010.  Allen is the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper that frequently publishes attacks on Catholic doctrine.

Allen personally traveled to Buenos Aires, where he says that three different unnamed sources confirmed to him the claim, which was made by several newspapers following the election of Bergoglio in March, including the New York Times.

Two of the sources, according to Allen, were senior officials of the Argentina Episcopal Conference, of which Bergoglio was the head until his recent election.  Both officials “worked with Bergoglio and took part in the behind-the-scenes discussions as the conference tried to shape its position,” Allen claims.

Allen also cites two other sources in the Argentinean press who publicly confirm the story: Mariano de Vedia of the La Nación newspaper, and Guillermo Villarreal, whom Allen simply calls a “Catholic journalist.”

According to Allen's sources, Bergoglio privately debated with fellow bishops over the issue, advocating the endorsement of civil union legislation, apparently as an alternative to homosexual “marriage” in 2010. A majority of bishops rejected his stance and Bergoglio accepted their decision, remaining silent about civil unions during the debate over homosexual “marriage” that year.  Ultimately homosexual “marriage” was approved by the National Congress.

However, Allen clarifies, Bergoglio never supported homosexual “marriage” itself.

Allen's account also tends to confirm reports by the Catholic traditionalist website Rorate Caeli indicating that Bergoglio provided only a weak public response to the drive for homosexual “marriage.”  Allen reports that Bergoglio personally called one individual to urge him not to have a public rosary outside the legislature while the debate was occurring, but rather to “pray at home.”

Conflicting signals

Although Bergoglio is accused of having been soft on homosexual “marriage,” what the cardinal did say at the time was undeniably strong.

As reported in 2010, Bergoglio wrote a letter to the monasteries of Buenos Aires regarding the issue that was anything but ambiguous.

“Let's not be naive, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God,” Bergoglio stated in the letter. “We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

To the clergy in local parishes, Bergoglio noted that “The Argentinean people will have to confront, in the coming weeks, a situation whose result could gravely injure the family.  We are speaking of a bill regarding marriage between people of the same sex,” a bill that calls into question “the identity, and the survival of the family: father, mother, and children.”  The latter, warned Bergoglio, might also be threatened by homosexual adoption, which would be a true form of discrimination.

The accounts by Allen's sources are also contradicted by a personal confidant of Bergoglio during his years as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Miguel Woites, who told the Spanish Catholic news agency ACI Prensa that the New York Times story “isn't true. It's a complete error.”

“It's not correct to write something like that out of thin air,” added Woites. “That (New York Times) article was very criticized by the bishops. He certainly would have referred to unions of convenience but not that anything be legalized.”

Could Catholic doctrine on homosexual unions be changed?

The subject is becoming one of importance for the internal administration for the Catholic Church, as various prelates have appeared to soften their positions in recent weeks.

In particular, Christoph Schoenborn, the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, reportedly spoke positively about homosexual “partnerships,” in a recent speech, stating that they should receive “respect” and “protection” from the law.

“There can be same-sex partnerships and they need respect, and even civil law protection,” said Schoenborn according to The Tablet. “Yes, but please keep it away from the notion of marriage. Because the definition of marriage is the stable union between a man and a woman open to life.”

“We should be clear about terms and respect the needs of people living in a partnership together. They deserve respect,” the Cardinal added.

Schoenborn's words, if reported accurately, contradict the explicit teaching of recent popes. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, approved by Pope John Paul II, homosexual acts are “acts of great depravity” and “intrinsically disordered,” and although homosexual attractions do not constitute sins if they are not acted upon, they are “objectively disordered” themselves.

In applying the Church's condemnation of homosexual behavior. Pope John Paul II placed his magisterial authority behind a declaration published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2003, while it was under the administration of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI. 

The declaration, entitled “Considerations Regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons,” states that “In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.”

According to Professor Scott Nicholson, the Chair of the Theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry's Bay, Ontario, those who might hope for an alteration of Catholic teaching on homosexual civil unions shouldn't hold their breath.

Nicholson told that the 2003 declaration forms part of authoritative papal teaching, which requires “religious submission of mind and will by all Catholics.”

“A Catholic following Vatican II teaching will accept such a document, aware that one may explore the issue further, but that the general thrust will not be reversed,” Nicholson added.