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Pope Benedict’s private secretary has given a surprise interview on some of the hot-button issues at the Vatican’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family, advancing views aligned with those expressed by Pope Benedict during his time as cardinal and pope.

In the interview published in the print edition of Chi magazine last week, Archbishop Georg Gänswein said, “The Church has always declared, based on the Scriptures and tradition, that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”  The acts, he said, “are contrary to natural law, because they prevent the gift of life, the purpose of the sexual act.”

Gänswein went on to acknowledge that for people experiencing same-sex attraction the inclination can be a trial. “These people,” he said, “are called to live the will of God in their life and if they are Christians, to unite their sacrifice to the cross of the Lord, with the difficulties they meet because of their condition.”

The remarks echo the language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was published in 1992, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). They also bear marked similarity to the language of the 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, published by the CDF and signed by Cardinal Ratzinger.

“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,’” says the Catechism. “They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life.”

In the 1986 letter on the pastoral care of homosexuals, Cardinal Ratzinger had written, “What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross.”

While Archbishop Gänswein did not directly address Cardinal Walter Kasper’s much-discussed proposal to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion in some circumstances, he left a clear impression that he opposed it. Even if a married couple separates, he said, “starting a new union contradicts what the Lord has indicated.”

When asked directly if Catholics who have been divorced and subsequently entered a second marriage should be permitted to receive Holy Communion, Archbishop Ganswein said, “This is a very delicate question. According to Catholic doctrine, the sacrament of marriage is indissoluble, just like God's love for man.”

“The Church doesn't close Her eyes  to the difficulties of the Faithful who live in delicate and thorny situations,” Ganswein added. “Nevertheless, the Church must offer sincere answers which directs, not towards the spirit of the times, but to the Gospel, to the word of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.

“The evangelical message takes much effort but it is worthwhile to live it,” he said. “God welcomes, forgives, this is true, but it  is also true He asks for conversion.”

Vatican watchers told LifeSiteNews this would not be the first time that Pope Emeritus Benedict's private secretary has hinted at Benedict's own thoughts. Most notably, in an interview on German television in March of this year, Archbishop Ganswein revealed that Pope Benedict had written a 4-page critique of Pope Francis’ controversial interview with a Jesuit magazine wherein the pope had said the Church, “cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.”

The release of the interview with Archbishop Georg Gänswein came on the heels of the surprise publication of an interview with Pope Francis, which was unknown to the Vatican press office prior to its release, by the Argentine newspaper La Nacion on the opening day of the Synod.

In the interview, published October 5, Pope Francis was asked about the cardinals who have criticized Cardinal Kasper’s proposal to allow Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics. In response, he indicated that he is not in agreement with the “very conservative” bishops, but said he still enjoys “debating” them as long as they are “intellectually well-formed.”

The pope also said that the Church must not “stigmatize” and “impugn” those who are living together in what the Church calls “irregular” situations outside of marriage.

“We have to approach social conflicts, new and old, and try to give a hand of comfort, not to stigmatize and not to just impugn,” Pope Francis said.

“So many young people prefer to live together without marrying,” he added. “What should the Church do? Expel them from its breast? Or, instead, approach them, embrace them and try to bring them the word of God? I’m with the latter position.”