Marriage Equality and Catholic Latin America.

 With little fanfare, gay marriage is making steady progress among the world’s greatest concentration of Catholics – but a major landmark in South America passed by with hardly any notice, when the Uruguay senate approved legislation earlier this month.

At Bondings 2.0, Bob Shine of New Ways Ministry drew attention to the implications for the Catholic Church:

uruguay, gay marriage


Uruguay Passage of Marriage Equality Calls Church’s Role in Latin America Into Question

A successful Senate vote in Uruguay means marriage equality is only formalities away from becoming legal in that nation, making it the twelfth nation globally and second South American one to do so. Historically Catholic nations, like Argentina and Uruguay, have begun a trend in that region and the Catholic Church’s role these matters plays heavily, especially now that Pope Francis oversees the global church with his Argentine background. reports that Uruguay legislators in the upper house approved the marriage equality measure in a 23-8 vote, sending it to the lower house, which successfully passed a similar law last year, and then onto the president for approval. The Catholic hierarchy in Uruguay has made similar statements to those made by then-Cardinal Bergoglio when marriage equality was at issue in Argentina: warnings about the destructive nature of same-gender marriage and threats to children have been prominent in both cases. Their words seem deafened now, as reports:

“For years, it was rare to see gay rights issues gaining traction in Latin American countries.

“Not anymore, Javier Corrales, a professor of political science at Amherst College in Massachusetts, told CNN in 2010.

“‘Latin America currently has some of the most gay-friendly cities in the developing world,’ said Corrales, who ranked cities’ gay-friendliness in a book he co-edited, ‘The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America.’

“In 2009, Uruguay was the first Latin American country to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. It was also one the first Latin American countries to allow same-sex civil unions.

In another South American nation, Colombia, legislators have begun to mull marriage equality,  while Mexico continues adjudicating its tensions of having regionally-legalized rights.

It is well documented at this point that Pope Francis’ record on LGBT rights is mixed, with harsh comments about same-gender marriage coupled alongside vocal support for civil unions.In Uruguay, bishops spoke fervently against passage of the bill. In Colombia, where the measure is expected to fail, there has been greater silence by the hierarchy.

An interview on Public Radio International’s The World program presents one explanation for why traditionally Catholic nations in South America are leading the world in LGBT rights and equality. Lester Feder is a journalist who recalls the powerful narrative of human rights that emerged in Latin America as an explanation for why the quick integration of LGBT rights into legal structures occurred.  Feder also proposes that the Catholic Church is less powerful than is thought:

“”But the Catholic Church, especially in Argentina is a cultural institution with a lot of history, but its a very secular country and it doesn’t have a lot of power in politics…So, we have a kind of monolithic notion of Latin America and the influence of the Catholic Church, but the reality is more complicated.”

As the papacy of Pope Francis seems to indicate a shifting tone from legalism to pastoral concern, perhaps his experiences with the trend of full equality in Latin America will shape the global hierarchy’s response from Rome.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 Bondings 2.0.

There’s more that could be added, here. Latin America is not only heavily Catholic – it’s also the largest population bloc of Catholics, anywhere, as has been widely noted with the election of Pope Francis, and equality is already in place or on the way, across much more of the region that at first appears. Uruguay will be the second country in the region to approve marriage equality by legislative means, but there are three others where it’s effectively on the way, courtesy of the courts.

Shine refers to Colombia, where legislators are considering proposals. They are obliged to do this, by order of the constitutional court. The bill does not seem to be making much progress – but that’s irrelevant. The court order stipulates that if no legislation is passed by June, the existing restriction to opposite – sex couples simply falls away, and equal marriage comes into force by default.

In Brazil, a series of court judgements has affirmed that all couples have the same rights to marriage. A series of states have formalized this in state legislation, elsewhere couples can simply apply to have their civil unions registered as marriages.

In Mexico, first Mexico City in 2009, then two more states (Quintana Roo, 2011, and Oaxaca, 2012) approved gay marriages within their own states – but the court has ruled that these marriages must be recognized across the country. Proposals are under consideration in a number of other states. So any Mexican couple can have a full same – sex marriage, with all the legal recognition of any other, simply by arranging their wedding in Mexico City or one of the increasing number of other states that have introduced marriage equality. So in this map, dark blue indicates the states with full marriage equality, mid blue civil unions only, and pale blue (all the rest) where marriages contracted elsewhere are recognized.


In the region holding the word’s greatest concentration of Catholics, equal marriage is spreading rapidly – and where full marriage is not yet available, across most of the region, civil unions offer a second best alternative.

gay marriage, south america

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On Gay Unions, a Pragmatist Before He Was a Pope

The very idea was anathema to many of the bishops in the room.

Argentina was on the verge of approving gay marriage, and the Roman Catholic Church was desperate to stop that from happening. It would lead tens of thousands of its followers in protest on the streets of Buenos Aires and publicly condemn the proposed law, a direct threat to church teaching, as the work of the devil.

Pope Francis arriving at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Tuesday for his installation Mass, which officials said as many as 200,000 people attended.

But behind the scenes, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who led the public charge against the measure, spoke out in a heated meeting of bishops in 2010 and advocated a highly unorthodox solution: that the church in Argentina support the idea of civil unions for gay couples.

The concession inflamed the gathering — and offers a telling insight into the leadership style he may now bring to the papacy.

Few would suggest that Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, is anything but a stalwart who fully embraces the church’s positions on core social issues. But as he faced one of the most acute tests of his tenure as head of Argentina’s church, he showed another side as well, supporters and critics say: that of a deal maker willing to compromise and court opposing sides in the debate, detractors included.

The approach stands in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who spent 25 years as the church’s chief doctrinal enforcer before becoming pope, known for an unbending adherence to doctrinal purity. Francis, by comparison, spent decades in the field, responsible for translating such ideals into practice in the real world, sometimes leading to a different approach.

“The melody may be the same, but the sound is completely different,” Alberto Melloni, the director of the liberal Catholic John XXIII Foundation for Religious Science in Bologna, Italy, said of the two.

– continue reading at

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Did Pope Francis Support Civil Unions?

At National Catholic Reporter,  John McCarthy initiates an important conversation.

My friend Christopher Hale (who also happens to be one of the most talented people I know) wrote a great piece for Millennial Journal recently that I thought was worth sharing with you all, and worth starting some important discussion on. According to the sources that Chris pulls together, several news reports are suggesting that Pope Francis, then Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio may have backed gay civil unions as an alternative to the gay marriage law passed in Argentina in July 2010. The sources and commentary can be found HERE. 

Once you have had a chance to read through let’s have a larger discussion on, “What role should the Catholic Church play in defining Civil Marriage?” So many Catholics share the belief that our LGBT brothers and sisters should be able to have a common-law marriage, even if the Church does not recognize it. Perhaps more broadly, we can ask ourselves, “How best can we include LGBT individuals in the Church?

Let’s get a conversation going, so please share your thoughts below:

– National Catholic Reporter.

On Gay Unions, a Pragmatist Before He Was a Pope (New York Times)

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“Records Show Pope Francis Supported Gay Unions”

Sometimes the media misses the elephant in the room, and this is clearly one of those occasions.

Buried within several news reports is the stunning revelation that Pope Francis, then Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, may have quietly backed gay civil unions as an alternative to the gay marriage law that passed in Argentina in July 2010.


According to the new pope’s authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin, Bergoglio was politically wise enough to know the church couldn’t win a straight-on fight against gay marriage, so he urged his bishops to lobby for gay civil unions instead. It wasn’t until his proposal was shot down by the bishops’ conference that he publicly declared what Paulon described as the “war of God” — and the church lost the issue altogether.

Despite his conservatism, “Bergoglio is known for being moderate and finding a balance between reactionary and progressive sectors,” Paulon said. “When he came out strongly against gay marriage, he did it under pressure from the conservatives.”

Freyre, executive director of the Buenos Aires AIDS Foundation, wrote on his Twitter account this week that Pope Francis “knows that gay marriage isn’t the end of the world or the species.”

In addition, BuzzFeed reports:

When it became clear that stopping the marriage law would be impossible, the church may have tacitly given its backing to a civil union law as a way to head off the marriage bill. Senator Liliana Negre de Alonso, a member of Opus Dei and one of the politicians most closely linked to the Catholic Church, sponsored the civil union bill. (This would be like Rick Santorum having endorsed a civil union law in the United States.) It went nowhere. During the debate, the leader of the majority party reduced her to tears while calling her a “Nazi” for backing legislation that would create a “separate-but-equal” status for same-sex couples.

– continue reading at  Millennial.

On Gay Unions, a Pragmatist Before He Was a Pope (New York Times)

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Monsignor Fernando Maria Bargallo Quits, Argentinian Bishop Seen Frolicking With Woman

The pope has accepted the resignation of an Argentine bishop photographed frolicking on a Mexican beach with a woman, one of several personnel changes announced Tuesday by the Vatican before the pontiff heads off for summer vacation.

Monsignor Fernando Maria Bargallo, bishop of Merlo-Moreno outside Buenos Aires, initially denied having had any improper relationship with the woman, whom he described as a childhood friend. But the 57-year-old Bargallo later decided to step down under the church rule that lets bishops retire before age 75 if they’re found to be unfit for office.

Photographs of the encounter were broadcast on television last week and have been circulating on the Internet.

via  Huffington Post

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Argentina authorizes the marriage of gay and lesbian foreigners

Gay and straight tourists can now marry in four districts in Argentina.

The city of Buenos Aires passed a resolution on 18 May that approves the marriage of foreign couples regardless of their nationality or sexual orientation.

This March two men from Paraguay, Simón Cazal y Sergio López, became the first foreign gay couple to marry in Argentina. Cazal is president of the Paraguayan gay rights group SomosGay.

Alex Greenwich and Victor Höld, a gay couple from Sydney, Australia married 11 May.

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