Statement on Pope Francis remark regarding civil unions
In a documentary film entitled FRANCESCO that premiered in Italy last week, an old interview with Pope Francis conducted in Spanish appeared where he said the following:
“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it… What we have to create is a civil union law (emphasis added). That way they are legally covered,” the pope said. “I stood up for that.”
Many interpreted this statement on creating “ley convivencia civil” i.e., “a civil union law” as a Papal endorsement on same sex marriage.
Many countered that this is merely call for “civil co-existence” with people with same sex attraction, i.e., that there should be laws created to assure that same-sex attracted peoples and couples are not unjustly discriminated against.
We offer several points for reflection over the matter:
1. Did Pope Francis just change Church teaching on Same Sex Unions?
The answer is No.
Pope Francis has been consistent in defending natural marriage as a divinely willed institution between a man and woman, committed to live together for life, for the purpose of conception and rearing and education of children, for the good of society. Even as a Cardinal in Buenos Aires, he has spoken boldly in favor of natural marriage:
In an article that came out on L’Osservatore Romano, the then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and Primate of Argentina, has said that if a proposed bill giving same-sex couples the opportunity to marry and adopt children should be approved, it will “seriously damage the family.”
He made the statement in a letter addressed to each of the four monasteries in Argentina, asking the contemplatives to pray “fervently” that legislators be strengthened to do the right thing.
He added: “In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family…At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”
Cardinal Bergoglio concluded: “Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
2. Does the Church care for same sex attracted persons?
A big yes.
As a good pastor and leader of the Catholic Church, we see Pope Francis calling for legal protection of “civil unions” between same sex attracted persons which we cannot deny exist. While their union is in no way being endorsed as a marriage and a sacrament, the Pope is calling that rights that accrue to them as legal persons and children of God be given them and be covered by law. To make an imperfect analogy, even offenders of the
law have rights and those rights have to be covered and protected by law. Such protection in is no way an endorsement of criminal activity but simply an assurance that EVERYBODY have rights before the law.
3. What is the proper forum where we can know official Church teaching?
The statement on a call for a “law on civil union” was made in a context of a casual interview. Pope Francis was not speaking in a position of teaching as the supreme teacher of the faith. A Pope’s personal views on things and formal proclamations can have differences in nuances and interpretations. Personal interviews and casual conversations do not have the power to effect changes in doctrinal and pastoral programs of the Church. Neither do they have the doctrinal, canonical and pastoral weight of a formal encyclical or apostolic exhortation.
4. What has Pope Francis officially taught about same sex unions?
If we want to know what the Pope formally teaches and endorses as the leader of the Catholic Church, we turn to official documents like Encyclicals, Apostolic Exhortations and Letters. And speaking of official Magisterial Pronouncements, this is what Pope Francis has laid down as the official position of the Magisterium of the Church: From Amoris Laetitia n. 250:
“The Church makes her own the attitude of the Lord Jesus, who offers his boundless love to each person without exception. During the Synod, we discussed the situation of families whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy either for parents or for children. We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided (emphasis added), particularly any form of aggression and violence. Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives.”
Again from Amoris Laetitia n. 251 on the character of Same Sex Unions:
“In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, ‘as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family'” (emphasis added). It is unacceptable ‘that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this
matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex'”.
Let us continue to pray for the Holy Father and his solemn duty to sail the bark of Peter safely afloat amidst the confusion and challenges of the modern times.FR. JOEL O. JASON
Commission on Family and Life
+ BRODERICK S. PABILLO
Apostolic Administrator of Manila
29 October 2020
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