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Pope Francis Made Me Do It

Pope's remarks cited by Illinois lawmakers to justify vote for same-sex marriage.

BY Joan Desmond

| Posted 11/7/13 at 11:11 AM

 

Pope Francis’ comments about “gays” have been cited by some Illinois lawmakers to explain their decision to back the passage of same-sex marriage in the state.

The Chicago Tribune noted the intense struggle to secure passage of “marriage equality” in Illinois, and said that the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that overturned part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act was key. But so was Pope Francis — at least that is the argument floated by some lawmakers to explain a controversial vote that could have repercussions when they come up for re-election. According to the Tribune: 

Advocates soon received additional help from Pope Francis, who warned that the Catholic Church could lose its way by focusing too much on social stances, including opposition to homosexuality.

“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” Francis said in July.

The comments sparked a wave of soul-searching by several Catholic lawmakers who had battled to reconcile their religious beliefs with their sworn duty to represent their constituents who were increasingly supportive of gay rights even as Cardinal Francis George remained opposed.

“As a Catholic follower of Jesus and the pope, Pope Francis, I am clear that our Catholic religious doctrine has at its core love, compassion and justice for all people,” said Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, a Democrat from Aurora who voted for the bill after spending much of the summer undecided.

House Speaker Michael Madigan also cited the pope’s comments in explaining his support for the measure.

“For those that just happen to be gay — living in a very harmonious, productive relationship but illegal — who am I to judge that they should be illegal?” the speaker said.

Surprisingly, these self-identified Catholics seemed content with staking a position on a critical vote without the benefit of actually reading more than fragments of Francis’ remarks.

Hawaii lawmakers are also poised to legalize same-sex marriage, and it’s interesting that the Diocese of Honolulu has provided links that present Pope Francis’ remarks in full “context,” with a number of statements made by Jorge Mario Bergoglio before and after he was elected pope.  

Will that information stop some self-identified Catholic legislators from citing the pontiff to justify their votes? It’s too soon to tell whether the pope’s supposed teachings will be introduced in upcoming state and national debates on “marriage equality” or life issues or in the mid-term elections. We are in the early phase of a campaign to spin the words of the pope and manufacture a kind of counter-magisterium.