Catholic lawmakers in the Philippines “no longer have a basis” to refuse same-sex civil unions after the Pope gave them his backing, a presidential spokesman suggested.
The 83-year-old Pope Francis made a major break from Catholic teachings in an interview for the documentary Francesco, which premiered on Wednesday (October 21).
“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” the pontiff said. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”
He added: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”
The announcement could soon see same-sex civil unions legalised in the Philippines, the home of the third largest Catholic population in the world after Brazil and Mexico.
In a televised press briefing from Malacañang Palace, the seat of the Philippines’ government, a spokesperson confirmed that the “recognition of same-sex union has always been supported” by president Rodrigo Duterte.
“That just depends on the priority of Congress,” spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters on Thursday. “But with no less than the Pope supporting it, I think even the most conservative of all Catholics in Congress should no longer have a basis for objecting.”
While it is true that president Duterte expressed his support for same-sex civil unions as early as 2017, many LGBT+ Filipinos will be sceptical of the apparent attempt to paint him as champion of their community.
The abrasive leader is often likened to Donald Trump for his obscene outbursts that commonly target LGBT+ people, with his offensive comments about a gay US ambassador leading Barack Obama to cancel a meeting with him in 2016.
Pope Francis’ endorsement of same-sex civil unions divides Philippines.
In general the Pope’s endorsement of same-sex relationships was met with mixed reactions in the Philippines, where homosexuality is broadly tolerated, if not accepted, but acts of violence and discrimination are still common.
Retired bishop Arturo Bastes told Crux he “had very serious doubts about the moral correctness” of the pontiff’s position, noting that it runs against long-standing church teachings.
“This is a shocking statement coming from the Pope,” Bastes told reporters. “I am really scandalised by his defence of homosexual union, which surely leads to immoral acts.”
At least three other Filipino bishops expressed disbelief, questioning whether it is the Vatican’s official position and if the Pope was accurately quoted in context.
“It is just a documentary film so it is not official and should first be verified,” bishop Ruperto Santos said, adding there could have been editing alterations or the documentary was “just for propaganda so that it could be talked about or patronised.”