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March 21st, 2013
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Will Pope Francis reform Catholic Church's stance on gay marriage? Father Beck, Richard Socarides and Cameron Russell weigh in

Now an intriguing look at the possibility of compromise on same-sex marriage and the Catholic Church.

During Argentina's bitter same-sex marriage fight back in 2010, then Archbishop Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, got into a very public verbal battle with the country's president. He called her gay marriage bill a destructive attack on God's plan. That was publicly. But privately, the stance may have been quite different.

A senior Vatican official said the Roman Catholic Church could neither confirm nor deny the report at this point. The official added that while Pope Francis might have expressed such view while he was a cardinal, he should be given time to develop policy position as pontiff.

This morning on "Starting Point," CNN contributor Father Edward Beck, NewYorker.com writer Richard Socarides and model Cameron Russell discuss Pope Francis's past positions on the issue of same sex marriage, and whether reform will come to the Catholic Church.

Transcript available after the jump.

FATHER EDWARD BACK, CNN ONTRIBUTOR: Well, as you heard, 2010 they're at a bishop's meeting, he's the head of the conference, right. And same-sex marriage looks like it's going to pass in Argentina. As a man of compromise, he said I think we should come out and support same-sex unions. It would get us out of having to support same-sex marriage. They all voted him down. So, really he was head of the conference. It was the first time in six years that the bishops went against something he was proposing. But what it says to me is this is a man of moderation, of compromise and someone who is lobbying for human rights, basic human rights.

ROMANS: And a savvy politician.

BERMAN: Richard, what does it say to you? You've just written a piece in the Newyorker.com about the pope and the issue of gay rights.

SOCARIDES: Well, I think you know, if it's true that he did this, and I think people are - no one is denying it – it shows that he may be a very clever politician. But the truth is, when this issue was before the government, he very aggressively opposed equality, very aggressively opposed equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians in Argentina, so if - it may say that he is a better politician and he may be someone who is open to compromise. May be a good sign. The truth is, on the issue publicly, he was not where Catholics are.

BECK: Why politician? Why not someone championing human rights? Not able to change the church's stance on gay marriage, because marriage between a man and woman is the church's position. Needs to be open to procreation. That's constitutive of the church's teaching with regard to marriage – procreation has to be part of it. Why politician not saying but if we can't do that, I want equal human rights for everyone? He's been shown to do that with the poor and everyone else, why not gay people?

SOCARIDES: I think if he, in fact, becomes a champion of human rights that would be fantastic and terrific.

BECK: He already is.

SOCARIDES: Well, in this issue. I think the problem with the church's teaching on this issue is that they see - the Catholic Church has historically seen marriage as a religious ceremony, as a religious institution. But the truth is, is that in countries like the United States and in Argentina, marriage is a civil issue. It's a civil law issue. It has nothing to do with religion and so that's where we have the fundamental disagreement.

BECK: Which may be part of the problem. I think everybody should be able to be married civilly perhaps, but only some then have a religious ceremony. If you want to be married in the Catholic Church, you're Catholic.

SOCARIDES: We'll take that. That's all gay rights activists want. I mean all we want is civil marriage. We don't want to be married in anyone's church.

BECK: It's not marriage though. Marriage for us has a connotation of sacramental religios. That's the distinction.

SOCARIDES: Well, listen if the Catholic Church was willing to come forward and say that they support full civil rights, full equal rights for same-sex partners, with the one exception that they don't want it called marriage in the church, we'd take it. That would be fantastic.

(CROSSTALK)

BECK: Does it seem like that is exactly what he was doing?

SOCARIDES: He hasn't said that publicly. This is - perhaps he said it privately. But then he went out and said –

BECK: It was public in the bishops conference meeting, though. Others were there.

ROMANS: Do you think he'll ultimately be a reformer on this issue from Rome?

BECK: I do not know. Popes don't always maintain the same positions that they maintained when they were cardinals or archbishops.

ROMANS: It's a different prism that they are doing everything through. The prism of archbishop of Buenos Aires is very different than prism of pope.

BECK: And a smaller group of people than different concerns at 1.2 billion throughout the world. So the legislation is going to be a little different perhaps.

CAMERON RUSSELL, FORMER MODEL: Well, ultimately I think we just believe in separation of church and state and equal rights. I don't want a religious leader telling me who to deny rights to in my country.

SOCARIDES: Well listen, I would say that if this is true, it could be a very positive development. I don't want to suggest that somehow I'm negative on it. If the new pope is willing to be a compromiser on this and try to find some common ground, I think it's a very positive development.

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Filed under: Catholic Church • Gay marriage • Pope Francis
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Jeff

    Never. It is sinful

    April 25, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. gerald

    Reform? It is not reform to go against God's plan for man. I doubt this story but even if it were true, Francis will not deform the Church on this matter.

    March 25, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply

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