Though Leonardo Steiner, secretary general of the National Confederation of Bishops of Brazil and auxiliary bishop to the nation's capital, does not support church-sanctioned marriages for same-sex couples, he just became one of the first national leaders of Catholicism to publicly support civil unions.
During a recent interview with O Globo Magazine, Bishop Steiner expressed a clear interest in legal protections for people who are LGBT, as well for continuously evolving conversations in the Catholic Church and beyond.
"There needs to be a dialog on the rights of shared life between people of the same sex who decide to live together. They need legal support from society," Bishop Steiner told O Globo.
His declaration makes history, as he is now the only prominent Catholic figurehead to speak out in such a way since the Pope did so in March. Many have lauded his public position. Still, Bishop Steiner has received some criticism for not supporting full marriage equality.
"The truths of faith do not change," he said, but that doesn't mean Catholic practices and church culture won't shift over time. "She is not the same through the ages," he added. "The Church seeks answers for the present time. Like all people the Church seeks always to read the signs of the times, to see what you should or should not change."
Brazil is home to one-tenth of the world's Catholic population. Bishop Steiner has been an ordained clergy member in the Catholic Church since 1978 and was appointed to the position of Bishop in 2005. He is 63 years old.
Regarding the Pope's previous statements on LGBT equality, the Bishop stated, "You could say that the Pope is echoing what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about gay people: 'They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.' It’s understood that accepting them with respect, compassion and sensitivity means walking and being with the homosexual person and helping them understand, deepen and guide their condition as a son or daughter of God."
As Catholic church members, lay leaders, clergy, and grassroots organizations around the world continue to grow in their support of the LGBT community members and their legal protections, we hope more top position-holders will follow Bishop Steiner's example of intentional discernment when it comes to matters of equality.