It is being reported, by blogger Christopher Hale, but not confirmed by news or Vatican sources, that Pope Francis, while a Cardinal in Argentina, gave tacit approval to civil union laws as a way of trying to hold off marriage equality:
Buried within several news reports is the stunning revelation that Pope Francis, then Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, may have quietly backed gay civil unions as an alternative to the gay marriage law that passed in Argentina in July 2010.
According to the new pope’s authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin, Bergoglio was politically wise enough to know the church couldn’t win a straight-on fight against gay marriage, so he urged his bishops to lobby for gay civil unions instead. It wasn’t until his proposal was shot down by the bishops’ conference that he publicly declared what Paulon described as the “war of God” — and the church lost the issue altogether.
In addition, BuzzFeed reports:
When it became clear that stopping the marriage law would be impossible, the church may have tacitly given its backing to a civil union law as a way to head off the marriage bill. Senator Liliana Negre de Alonso, a member of Opus Dei and one of the politicians most closely linked to the Catholic Church, sponsored the civil union bill. (This would be like Rick Santorum having endorsed a civil union law in the United States.)
This Spanish-language transcript was provided to me by an Argentinian friend Natalia Jacovkis. It comes from Federico Wals, Cardinal Bergoglio’s spokesman in response to the 2010 proposal to legalize gay marriage in Argentina:
No buscamos discriminar a las uniones de personas del mismo sexo. No tenemos una mirada fanática. Lo que estamos pidiendo es que se respeten las leyes. …Creemos que hay que plantear un proyecto de unión civil más completo del que existe, pero no de matrimonio.