As the world continues to learn more about Pope Francis’ theological views, there are reports that the Catholic Church’s new pontiff allegedly endorsed same-sex civil unions back in 2010. If true, this would obviously paint a stark contrast to Pope Benedict XVI’s past handling of gay rights issues.

The allegation that Francis issued behind-the-scenes endorsements of civil unions has, of course, made the rounds in numerous outlets. It’s a story that is based on individual accounts of peoples’ previous interactions with the leader and it has not been independently confirmed by the Vatican or by the pope, himself.

The story originated in separate reports by CNN and The New York Times.

As CNN reported this week, Marcelo Marquez, an activist and a former theology professor at a Catholic college, claims that the pope, formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, phoned him in 2010 to tell him about his views on civil unions.

Did Pope Francis Secretly Endorse Civil Unions for Gays During Argentinas 2010 Marriage Debate?

Pope Francis greets foreign diplomats during an audience with the diplomatic corps at the Vatican on March 22, 2013. Pope Francis called for the Roman Catholic Church to ‘intensify’ its dialogue with Islam, echoing hopes in the Muslim world for better ties with the Vatican during his reign. Credit: AFP/Getty Images 

“He told me. … ‘I’m in favor of gay rights and in any case, I also favor civil unions for homosexuals, but I believe that Argentina is not yet ready for a gay marriage law,’” Marquez told CNN.

The phone conversation purportedly unfolded after Marquez sent a letter to Argentina’s Catholic leaders, decrying their handling of the gay marriage debate in the country. Less than an hour later, the activist said that the then-bishop called him to discuss the matter.

But, as TheBlaze has reported, Francis has always been known for his fierce opposition to same-sex nuptials. Consider CNN’s recap of just how fierce the Catholic leader’s involvement was in attempting to push back against legalization:

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio was one of the leaders of the Catholic Church’s public charge against legalizing same-sex marriage in Argentina. He engaged in a notorious war of words with the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who supported the measure.

Bergoglio put himself in the middle of the fight, calling the proposed legislation “a destructive attack on God’s plan.”

With a front-page counterpunch, the president said the church possessed “attitudes reminiscent of medieval times and the Inquisition.”

Some point to the public battle as evidence of Bergoglio’s traditionalist views.

Just to reinforce how vocally opposed he was, Francis’ comment about destruction and God’s plan was quite extensive, dismissing the law under consideration at the time as an assault that was manufactured by Satan.

“Let’s not be naïve. We’re not talking about a simple political battle. It is a destructive pretension against the plan of God,” he said. “We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Did Pope Francis Secretly Endorse Civil Unions for Gays During Argentinas 2010 Marriage Debate?

Pope Francis looks on during an audience with the diplomatic corps at the Vatican on March 22, 2013. Pope Francis called for the Roman Catholic Church to ‘intensify’ its dialogue with Islam, echoing hopes in the Muslim world for better ties with the Vatican during his reign. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

But Marquez claims that Francis’ behavior and statements behind closed doors differed from the tone associated with this assessment. The Catholic leader allegedly told the activist that he had always treated gays and lesbians with respect and that he tended to their spiritual needs throughout his career.

And the activist isn’t alone in making these allegations. A former pastor in Buenos Aires, Andres Albertsen, too, claims that Francis once used similar language to describe his stance on civil unions. In a private meeting, he told CNN that the pontiff, prior to becoming pope, was candid.

“In this conversation that we had, he showed himself to be very open, very frank with me,” Albertsen said. “He told me that he would have accepted a civil union.”

A separate report in the Times adds that, despite his public denunciation of gay marriage, Francis posited a civil union solution during a 2010 meeting with Bishops. The report reads, in part:

But behind the scenes, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who led the public charge against the measure, spoke out in a heated meeting of bishops in 2010 and advocated a highly unorthodox solution: that the church in Argentina support the idea of civil unions for gay couples.

The concession inflamed the gathering — and offers a telling insight into the leadership style he may now bring to the papacy. [...]

Faced with the near certain passage of the gay marriage bill, Cardinal Bergoglio offered the civil union compromise as the “lesser of two evils,” said Sergio Rubin, his authorized biographer. “He wagered on a position of greater dialogue with society.”

In the end, though, a majority of the bishops voted to overrule him, his only such loss in his six-year tenure as head of Argentina’s bishops’ conference. But throughout the contentious political debate, he acted as both the public face of the opposition to the law and as a bridge-builder, sometimes reaching out to his critics.

Did Pope Francis Secretly Endorse Civil Unions for Gays During Argentinas 2010 Marriage Debate?

Pope Francis (C) arrives for an audience with the diplomatic corps at the Vatican on March 22, 2013. Pope Francis called for the Roman Catholic Church to ‘intensify’ its dialogue with Islam, echoing hopes in the Muslim world for better ties with the Vatican during his reign. Credit: AFP/Getty Images 

So, it seems Pope Francis supported civil unions (though not gay marriage) as a point of compromise during a time in which the Catholic Church was embroiled in chaos and a national gay rights debate in Argentina.

Now, as a result of these claims, some wonder if Francis will take the same stance as the head of the Catholic Church — one that would have a profound impact on the 1.2 billion adherents across the globe. Of course, only time will tell how his past views on the matter will be translated and applied to the global stage. And it’s important to note that his view at the time may have been rooted more in keeping the peace than anything else.

The gay marriage law that Francis so publicly railed against was inevitably passed in Argentina and, as the Times notes, more than 1,000 gay couples have married in the three years since its passage.

Previously, TheBlaze explored Francis’ past views on socialism and liberation theology. The gay marriage and civil union discussion is the latest curiosity to emerge concerning the pontiff.

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