The Catholic News Agency (CNA) is reporting, and many other major outlets have picked up, that Pope Francis states his explicit support for legally recognizing same-sex civil unions in a new documentary Francesco, which tells the story of the  Pontiff’s life and work. The film premiered today as part of the Rome Film Festival. CNA quotes Francis as saying that regarding long-term same-sex relationships, “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.” He adds, “I stood up for that.” Filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky told CNA that the Pope made these statements during an interview for the film.

Such a position, however, is in direct opposition to the historic and official teaching of the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states definitively,

Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity [Cf. Genesis 19:1-29; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Timothy 1:10], tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. [emphasis added.]

In addition, according to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church as outlined by the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (CDF) – authored by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, and promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 2003 – “where homosexual unions have been legally recognized … clear and emphatic opposition is a duty” and every Christian “must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws.” (See end of section 5.)

In addition, Church doctrine in section 11 of “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons” states, “The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions” and that “the Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.”

Bishop Michael Sheridan of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, CO told the Daily Citizen, “I find the pope’s comments very confusing – even dangerous.” Trying to imagine a charitable explanation for the Pope’s concerning comments, Sheridan added, “The most benign interpretation that I can make of the pope’s remarks is that he is calling for laws that would ensure that a person could share in the benefits of his or her ‘partner’ (e.g., medical insurance, pension, etc.).  Even that, however, seems to fly in the face of the CDF’s statement.”

So it is clear that these reported comments from Pope Francis, if true, are indeed directly contrary to official Catholic teaching and do not hold authority for any Christian because the Pope spoke them. This reported statement from Francis is, according to the Catholic News Service, at distinct odds with what the Pontiff stated in a letter to the Carmelite nuns of Buenos Aires on July 8, 2010. Writing as then-Cardinal Bergoglio when the debate on homosexual marriage in the country was in full swing, Francis explained: “Let’s not be naïve:  This is not a simple political struggle, but an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill but a move of the Father of Lies, who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

The infamously pro-gay priest James Martin tweeted his celebration of the Pope’s comments today,

What makes Pope Francis comments supporting same-sex civil unions today so momentous? First, he is saying them as Pope, not Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Second, he is clearly supporting, not simply tolerating, civil unions. Third, he is saying it on camera, not privately. Historic.

Of course, Pope Francis is a very influential world leader for the Christian faith and clarity in biblical orthodoxy in such matters these days is critical.

Photo from IPA/REUTERS


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