The Music in Noise

Pope Francis on 'Same-Sex Civil Unions' - 2020-10-23

Recently there has been a scandal within the Church over footage found in the recent documentary "Francesco" on Pope Francis. News outlets everywhere have been exclaiming how this footage shows Pope Francis approving of same-sex civil unions. [1][2][3] However, it would seem that none of these journalists or newspapers have bothered to look up the actual footage, put it into the context of what the Pope is talking about, and understand the true meaning of what the Church teaches on this issue, which is exactly what Pope Francis is trying to express.

So before getting into the issue at hand, what does the Church teach on the subject of civil unions and homosexuality? On civil marriage, Pope Leo XIII wrote that "while the civil authority retains in full its right to regulate the so-called civil effects, the marriage itself is subject to the authority of the Church" and that "We raise our voice and totally condemn the so-called civil marriage laws" (Dum Multa § 2-3). And with regards to homosexuality, the Church holds a nuanced position that is neither acceptance of the behaviour, nor a condemnation of the person:

"Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, 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.

"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

"Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection."

- Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2357-2359

Knowing the teaching of the Church, which is a matter of immutable doctrine, we can now delve into what His Holiness has or hasn't said, and whether it contradicts these truths.

Firstly, not everything from the original interview was put into the documentary, part of it - the part where His Holiness repeats Church teaching - is conveniently removed.[4] Next, it's worth noting the context of what Pope Francis means by saying that people with same-sex attraction have a "right to a family". He's talking specifically about people who are being kicked out of their homes by their parents and family for their attraction. Pope Francis is essentially repeating Catholic teaching which is found in paragraph 2358 of the Catechism, as cited above.

But what of the so-called "same-sex civil union law"? Well, if you speak any Spanish, listen to the words that Pope Francis says in the interview, and you'll notice he says: "ley de convivencia civil". The key word here is convivencia, which is tricky as it doesn't have a perfect translation into English. The most literal translation would be "co-living", but His Holiness is not referring to a cohabitation law either. The real meaning of it in this context is quite simply "getting along". Just like the rest of the interview, he's referring to a law that would protect people with same-sex attraction from being kicked out of their homes by their parents. Again, what is very clearly Church teaching as we see from paragraph 2358 of the Catechism.

So how could it be that the media came to such wild conclusions on this issue? There are probably several reasons, such as the need to report on something before enough information is available, or that the subtitles for the documentary use an inappropriate translation, or the media is really trying its hardest to turn Pope Francis into the Modernist pope they've always wanted, or simply that Pope Francis has a bad reputation on this sort of issue mostly due to bad phrasing. Ultimately, all that deserves an article of its own. But it's worth noting that this isn't the first time something like this has happened to Pope Francis. It's all too common for the media to take sound bites of what he says and pass it off with no context. Perhaps the real tragedy is that most folks, both outside and inside the Church, will only get to hear the perversions of his words told in the media, while never hearing his actual message. And this is driving many people away from the Church. They're manipulated into believing that Pope Francis is some doctrinal revolutionary who has come to modernize the Church, when in reality the most radical thing I've seen him question is the death penalty - I have heard rumors that he says something about the Just War Doctrine, but I have yet to confirm this. Other than this, he has been a very orthodox pope.

So I have two lessons here: one for non-Catholics, and another for Catholics. For non-Catholics, don't believe everything you hear from the media about the Pope. This has happened several times before, and every time it's been a lie. For Catholics, have a little faith. As Catholics we believe that this is Christ's Church, and the pope is the Vicar of Christ. God would not let someone into such a position in His Church that is going to corrupt Her teachings which are necessary for our salvation. The Church shall not fall into error. Pray for him, as God knows he needs our prayers, pray for the souls of those journalists who manipulate his words, and pray for all those who were scandalized by this manipulation of what the Holy Father was trying to say.

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