The new Pope Francis, privately stood up for civil unions in Argentina in 2010, in a bid to stop the country from legalising equal marriage.

A report by the New York times quotes the new pope’s official biographer, who speaks of his support for civil unions in Argentina in 2010, which he described as “a lesser of two evils”.

The biographer describes how, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, during contention over the issue of equal marriage in Argentina, he suggested that the church support civil unions.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, publicly opposed equal marriage, and in the past described same-sex marriage and gay couples adopting as a “destructive attack on God’s plan.”

The new pope has also said that same-sex adoption adoption is a form of discrimination and abuse against children.

“He wagered on a position of greater dialogue with society,” his biographer said. He publicly criticised the equal marriage bill making its way through Argentina’s legislature, but supported cilvil unions.

The cardinal’s proposal was subsequently killed during a heated debate between bishops, the report suggests.

“He listened to my views with a great deal of respect,” one gay activist said, according to the biographer. “He told me that homosexuals need to have recognized rights and that he supported civil unions, but not same-sex marriage.”

Some critics have taken this as as sign that the new pope could signal a new and more progressive direction for the Catholic Church.

In 2010, Argentina’s Senate voted 33-27 to support a bill to legalise equal marriage. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner supported the legislation, making Argentina the first Latin American country to allow same-sex marriage, and full adoption.

The decision of Pope Francis to greet Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe at the pontiff’s inauguration mass has been met with condemnation from human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. 

Last week ministers in Denmark dubbed the newly elected Pope Francis “harmful”, expressing disappointment that the Vatican did not choose someone more progressive on LGBT and women’s rights, but remain hopeful that he may prove them wrong.