Rorate Caeli

NCR report from Argentina: "He did, in fact, favor civil unions."

We have come to a sad time when NCR at least strives to have more accurate reporting than some "conservative" blogs and publications: 

Congress of the Argentine Nation, Buenos Aires

On March 19, The New York Times reported that when Argentina was gearing up for a bitter national debate on gay [sic] marriage in 2009 and 2010, Bergoglio quietly favored a compromise solution that would have included civil unions for same-sex couples.

One source for that story was an Argentine journalist named Sergio Rubin, co-author with Francesca Ambrogetti of an interview book with Bergoglio titled El Jesuita. (I met Ambrogetti while I was in Buenos Aires. She told me the full version of how it took years for the notoriously media-averse Bergoglio to agree to the interview.)

Rubin's version of events was swiftly denied by Miguel Woites, director of the Argentinian Catholic Information Agency, a news outlet linked to the Buenos Aires archdiocese. Woites insisted Bergoglio would "never" have favored any legal recognition of same-sex unions and said the Times report was a "complete error."

On this score, I was told by three sources in Argentina that the Times basically got it right: Bergoglio did, in fact, favor civil unions.

That was confirmed on background by two senior officials of the bishops' conference in Argentina, both of whom worked with Bergoglio and took part in the behind-the-scenes discussions as the conference tried to shape its position.

"Bergoglio supported civil unions," one of those officials told me.

Mariano de Vedia, a veteran journalist for La Nación, has covered church/state issues in Argentina for years and said he could confirm Bergoglio's position had been correctly described in the Times account.

Guillermo Villarreal, a Catholic journalist in Argentina, said it was well known at the time that Bergoglio's moderate position was opposed by Archbishop Héctor Rubén Agüer of La Plata, the leader of the hawks. The difference was not over whether to oppose gay marriage, but how ferociously to do so and whether there was room for a compromise on civil unions.

Villareal described the standoff over gay [sic] marriage as the only vote Bergoglio ever lost during his six years as president of the conference.  [N.B.  The "vote" was a majority of the  Bishops' Conference in Argentina overruling the then-Cardinal's civil union endorsement.]

Behind the scenes, sources say Bergoglio tried to avoid fireworks on the gay [sic] marriage issue. One young Catholic told me, for instance, he had wanted to organize a public recitation of the rosary on the eve of the vote outside the legislature, knowing that supporters of gay [sic] marriage would also be there and the prayer would be a provocation. He wrote to Bergoglio seeking advice, he said, and Bergoglio called him directly, suggesting they pray at home instead.

Oesterheld suggested Bergoglio went along with the harder line espoused by the majority of the bishops' conference even if it wasn't his own instinct.

"At that time, there were different views within the bishops' conference on how open the church should be [to compromise solutions]," Oesterheld said. "The cardinal went along with what the majority wanted. He didn't impose his own views. He never publicly expressed his own feelings on the matter, because he didn't want to seem to be undercutting the common position of the bishops."

Once again, John Allen Jr. could have saved his trip if he had read Rorate in 2010:

The Bishops [of Argentina] came very late into the game, mostly to display a façade of 'action' before the Holy See, and Catholics remained uninformed about their religious obligations until the very end. 

As our readers can see, we were right not only on the absence of Diocesan Traditional Latin Masses in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires... At the time, the inside information on how a minority, headed by the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, had favored civil unions was unclear. What we could report was that there was a façade, but, as we can see now, a unified one.

As an aside, following the example of their larger neighbor across the River Plate, the parliament of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay overwhelmingly approved the redefinition of marriage to include counternatural unions this week. More on that and what it means regarding the influence of the Church in an increasingly Protestantized and/or secularized Latin America in an upcoming post.

P.S. The reigning Pontiff in 2010 was Benedict XVI, who unceasingly repeated (for instance, in 2006): "[I]t is a serious error to obscure the value and roles of the legitimate family founded on marriage by attributing legal recognition to other improper forms of union for which there is really no effective social need." In 2005 he had said: "Today, the various forms of the erosion of marriage, such as free unions and 'trial marriage', and even pseudo-marriages between people of the same sex, are instead an expression of anarchic freedom that are wrongly made to pass as true human liberation. This pseudo-freedom is based on a trivialization of the body, which inevitably entails the trivialization of the person. Its premise is that the human being can do to himself or herself whatever he or she likes: thus, the body becomes a secondary thing that can be manipulated, from the human point of view, and used as one likes. Licentiousness, which passes for the discovery of the body and its value, is actually a dualism that makes the body despicable, placing it, so to speak, outside the person's authentic being and dignity."