Pope Expresses “Concern for the Family” Before Congress in Allusion to Same-Sex Marriage

Pope Francis pauses after concluding his address before a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress as Vice President Joe Biden (left) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (right) applaud.

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Toward the end of Pope Francis’ speech to Congress, the pontiff mentions his desire that “the family should be a recurrent theme” through his visit to the United States. He then makes what is almost certainly an allusion to same-sex marriage, stating:

I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.


This oblique criticism may disappoint Pope Francis’ liberal supporters—but it’s entirely in keeping with his views on gay rights. The pope briefly encouraged LGBTQ advocates in 2013 when he responded to a question about gay priests by asking, “Who am I to judge?” But if the pope’s discourse on gay people seems progressive, his actual views remain aligned with Catholic orthodoxy. Francis doesn’t really support civil unions or same-sex adoption, and he definitely opposes same-sex marriage, which he allegedly called “anthropological regression.” His description of gay people may be humble and inclusive, but his true views are staunchly conservative. Much of Francis’ speech may have made congressional Republicans uncomfortable. But his “concern for the family” should make them feel right at home.

See more of Slate’s coverage of Pope Francis’ U.S. visit.