Faith Matters

Pope's civil union endorsement linked to Mexican interview

The documentary Francesco takes a wide-ranging look at Pope Francis's papacy but his remarks about civil unions have sparked controversy

SPECULATION has surrounded where Pope Francis originally made his comments endorsing same-sex civil unions, with suggestions that they came from a 2019 interview that was never shown in its entirety.

The Vatican has refused to comment on whether it or the Mexican broadcaster that conducted the interview cut the remarks from the broadcast.

Nor has it explained why it has now allowed the comments to be aired in the documentary Francesco, which premiered last Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival.

In the film, Pope Francis says gay people have the right to be "part of the family" as they are "children of God".

"Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.

"What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered."

The comments thrilled progressives and alarmed conservatives in equal measure; official Church teaching prohibits any such endorsement of homosexual unions.

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages.

One of the Pope's top communications advisers, the Jesuit priest Fr Antonio Spadaro, who edits the journal La Civiltà Cattolica, said the comments were old news and that they were made during a May 2019 interview with Mexican broadcaster Televisa.

"There's nothing new because it's a part of that interview," Fr Spadaro told the Associated Press."It seems strange that you don't remember."

But Televisa did not air those comments when it broadcast the interview - nor did the Vatican when it put out its recordings of it.

The Vatican frequently edits the Pope in official transcripts and videos, especially when he speaks on sensitive issues.

Yet another version of the footage was apparently available in the Vatican archives, which were opened to Francesco film-maker Evgeny Afineevsky.

Televisa has not confirmed that the comments were made during its interview, but the scene of the documentary is identical to the Televisa interview, including the yellow background, a chair in the corner and slightly off-centre placement of the chain of Pope Francis's pectoral cross.

The Vatican frequently edits the Pope in official transcripts and videos, especially when he speaks on sensitive issues 

The official 2019 Vatican News transcript of that interview, as well as the official Vatican edit, contains no such comment on the need for legal protections for civil unions.

The official edit does include his comments on the need for gay people to feel they are part of a family, as he has said previously.

Further muddying the waters is the fact that Afineevsky, when pressed by reporters, said the Pope made the comments to him directly, through a translator, but declined to say when.

Afineevsky, who is gay, has expressed surprise that Pope Francis's comments had created such a stir.

He said that the Pope was not trying to change doctrine but was merely expressing his belief gay people should enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals.

The Catholic Church teaches that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect but that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered".

A 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI - stated the Church's respect for gay people "cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions".

Doing so, the Vatican reasoned, would not only condone "deviant behaviour", but create an equivalence to marriage, which the Church holds is an indissoluble union between man and woman.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Faith Matters