‘Who am I to judge?’
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - October 28, 2020 - 12:00am

One of my most memorable and heart-warming thoughts about our beloved Pope is when he came to the Philippines on the heels of the terrible Supertyphoon Yolanda. In the aftermath of the storm that took so many lives, the Pope made the time to come to the country and commiserate with the countless Filipinos who lost loved ones, homes, livelihoods, and hope. He offered masses and prayers and tried to provide comfort any way he could.

That visit stuck with me. But even before then, I felt that Pope Francis was different. His presence felt like a comforting balm to the many wounded faithful around the world and his message of simplicity and empathy and compassion came at a time when I feel that so many people needed it the most. In so many ways, Pope Francis brought people back to the church. He reminded all of us what it meant to have open hearts and love one another. And he continues to do that more and more each day.

Many young people like Pope Francis because he is not only prayerful and faithful, but he is also inclusive and kind. He tries to reach out to everyone, especially those who need him the most. He has never been known to turn anyone away and while his forward-thinking may be a bit surprising to some older and more conservative folks, overall his message of acceptance and love is universal and honestly necessary right now when the world feels more divided than ever.

The Pope found himself in the spotlight again recently when he shared his thoughts on civil unions. Last week the Pope voiced support for same-sex couples calling them “children of God” and saying that they should have the same protections under the law as all civil unions. Understandably, his thoughts on gay marriage remain the same, but still, this is a huge step forward for an institution that has been quite rigid in their stance on same-sex couples.

While this may have been quite a shock to older more conservative Catholics, the Pope has always been quite vocal about his respect for homosexuals and has always been against their discrimination. Even when he was an archbishop in Buenos Aires, he already backed civil unions for gay couples. He has welcomed several members of the LGBTQ+ community at the Vatican and urges people to approach them with compassion, love, and respect.

I have to admire the Pope for being vocal about what I’m sure he knows is a rather sensitive topic. Everyone has to realize that times are changing and we have to change with them if we want to retain our humanity. The days of lions and the arena have long passed and I appreciate the Pope sharing his support for all our brothers and sisters.

What does that mean for same-sex unions in the country? I guess only time will tell. While marriage and the sanctity of this will be reserved for the church, that does not mean that same-sex couples should not be allowed to be together civilly and enjoy the same protection under the laws as married couples – for example to be able to jointly acquire, own, use, manage, and sell properties, or even arrange their finances or start a family.

As all of these laws aren’t religious and are created by the State, with same-sex civil unions recognized LGBTQ+ couples would enjoy the protection and privileges under the law just like everyone else. I think this is something that they deserve and I don’t believe it will negatively impact the sanctity of heterosexual marriages.

To be fair, I feel that overall the LGBTQ+ community is slightly more accepted in the country than not. Discrimination still happens and I know that we still have a lot of work to do to provide safety and equality, but I feel that more people have an open mind and heart versus those who don’t. We just have to move forward and make changes on dated legislation that prevents such couples to enjoy the full protection of the law as all recognized civil unions.

With Pope Francis’ statements, lawmakers in the country are given the boost to push their pending same-sex union bills. Several have come forward to urge lawmakers to support pending bills of same-sex civil unions and amend legislation like the Family Code, which excludes LGBTQ+ couples and even couples who are living together, but are not married.

Change is never easy, but it is something that happens no matter what and we can choose to recognize it when it happens or pretend that things remain the same. If the Pope can open his heart to all then – to borrow his phrase “Who are we to judge?.” I can’t help but feel that his message of accepting “all children of God” is more important now than it ever has been.

The world is divided now with so many promoting divisiveness and hate. And where has that gotten us? Nowhere good. We’re more divided than ever stuck in our homes and having to stay away from one another. I think it’s high time we all re-evaluate how we think. Perhaps if we can approach things with more kindness and compassion, then the world will be a better place for everyone.

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For comments or questions, please email author at: tonyk219@yahoo.com

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