Clarification On Media Claims Re: Pope Francis Statement On Civil Unions

Douglas McManaman

When Francis was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he advocated for same sex civil unions as a way of blocking a same sex marriage law. What this means is that Francis believes marriage is between a man and a woman. He said that same sex marriage is a “destructive attack on God’s plan”, and he still believes that. His goal is to keep marriage distinctly heterosexual. He is not endorsing homosexual behaviour.

We can compare this with Vatican II’s teaching on freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. If a person wishes to leave the Church and join the Baha’i faith or the Church of Scientology, the Church teaches that such a person ought not to be compelled to remain in the Church, but even has a right to legal protection in the free exercise of his conscience. But the Church does not endorse the Baha’i faith or the Church of Scientology. Similarly, the Pope is not saying that it is morally sound for two people of the same sex to live as a couple in a sexual relationship—clerical celibacy is a witness that happiness comes from Christ, not from an intimate sexual relationship. Rather, the Pope is saying that marriage is between a man and a woman and that there is really no such thing as unisex marriage, since marriage is a joining of two into a one flesh union–and two people of the same sex are unable to achieve a “one flesh union”. So if civil society is going to legally permit two people of the same sex to be “married”, the Pope is saying that this should not be designated as a marriage, but as a “civil union” with whatever legal protections that rightly belong to human beings, as human persons.

We know that this is not the spin that the media is giving it, that the media–and this documentary– is deliberately creating the impression that the Church is now okay with same sex relationships and same sex marriage. Nothing is new in this regard; the media has been sowing confusion and twisting his words since Francis took office. Moreover, when Pope Francis said that everyone deserves a family, he did not imply that gay couples have a right to adopt children; rather, the context is clear that he was talking about the family of the Church, that persons with a homosexual orientation should be welcomed in the Church, not excluded because of their orientation. In this regard, the Pope has said nothing that was not already said clearly and definitively by Pope Benedict.

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