October 22, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis’s remarks supporting homosexual civil unions, aired yesterday in the premiere of the documentary Francesco, have caused a worldwide stir, arousing backlash, celebration, and confusion all at once.
“What we have to create is a civil union law,” Pope Francis is reported to have said in what is arguably his clearest statement of public support for a practice morally prohibited by official Catholic Church teaching.
Cardinal Raymond Burke today released a statement on Pope Francis’s remarks in which he said, “It is a source of deepest sadness and pressing pastoral concern that the private opinions reported with so much emphasis by the press and attributed to Pope Francis do not correspond to the constant teaching of the Church, as it is expressed in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.”
Cardinal Gerhard Müller commented, “Where there is tension between the plain and obvious Word of God and the infallible interpretation on the one hand, and private expressions of opinion even by the highest church authorities on the other, the principle always applies: in dubio pro DEO [When in doubt, be in favor of God].”
It’s not just the usual critics of Pope Francis’s provocative statements who are speaking out.
Catholic theologian and apologist Scott Hahn, without directly quoting Pope Francis, yesterday shared on Facebook the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” published by the CDF in 1986, with the statement: “Holy Father, respectfully and humbly, I beg to differ… if that is indeed what you said. In any case, please clarify and rectify your statement, especially in view of the official teaching of our Lord through the magisterium of His Church.”
Meanwhile, Pope Francis’s remarks have received notable support from U.N. secretary general António Guterres. In an interview with the Associated Press on October 21, he said, “This is a clear demonstration of a fundamental principle, which is the principle of non-discrimination. And one of the things that has been very clear in the UN doctrine on this is that non-discrimination is also relevant in terms of sexual orientation so of course this issue of the pope is extremely welcome from our perspective.”
Father James Martin, controversially known as one of the most outspoken advocates for Church acceptance of homosexuality, told CNN yesterday, “The bishops who are many in different countries who are sort of violently against civil unions are going to have to rethink their positions.”
“[Pope Francis] may have in a sense, as we say in the church, developed his own doctrine. We have to reckon with the fact that the head of the church has now said that he feels that civil unions are ok. And we can’t dismiss that. This is a kind of teaching that he is giving us,” Fr. Martin continued.
The fact that the pope, historically known as the “vicar of Christ” — although Pope Francis has distanced himself from that title — has publicly broken with Catholic moral teaching is, naturally, a source of confusion, as Bishop Thomas Tobin wryly noted in a tweet yesterday: “Popes John Paul and Benedict, in formal teaching said that same-sex civil unions were wrong and that Catholics had to oppose them. Pope Francis, in a movie, said that same-sex civil unions were helpful and should be promoted. So, I ask, how could there possibly be any confusion?”
The responses to this tweet merely drive his point home.
One Twitter user responded, “Because Pope Francis is Our current Pope and to disregard him is to ignore God’s update. Not kidding.”
Another said, “The Holy Father’s word is law. You should obey, Bishop.”
Michael Heinlein, editor of Simplycatholic.com, responded by tweeting a quote by Cardinal Francis George: “Same-sex unions are incompatible with the teaching that has kept the Church united to her Lord for two thousand years.”
The confusion is even more powerfully demonstrated by the front cover of today’s “highest circulation UK newspaper,” Metro, shared by Edward Pentin on Twitter. It reads: “Pope Blesses Gay Weddings.” While support of homosexual civil unions already contradicts Church teaching — some, including Pope Francis himself — draw moral distinctions between homosexual civil unions and homosexual “marriage.” Metro’s claim that Pope Francis has blessed or in any way approved “gay weddings” is flat-out incorrect.
Adding “intrigue” to the airing of Pope Francis’s statements is an exchange between Rev. Antonio Spadaro, one of Pope Francis’s leading communications advisers, and the Associated Press.
According to the Associated Press, Spadaro “insisted the pope’s comments were old news, saying they were made during a May 2019 interview with Mexican broadcaster Televisa.”
As he exited the premiere of the film Francesco, Spadaro told the AP, “There’s nothing new because it’s a part of that interview. It seems strange that you don’t remember.”
“But Televisa didn’t air those comments when it broadcast the interview — nor did the Vatican when it put out its recordings of it,” the AP said.