VALLETTA, Malta, December 31, 2013 ( – Malta’s auxiliary bishop says Pope Francis was “shocked” earlier this month when the bishop informed him of the push to legalize same-sex civil unions and homosexual adoption on the Mediterranean island nation.

Bishop Charles Scicluna, who is being criticized in the media for defending traditional marriage in his Christmas homily last week, said the pope told him at a meeting December 12th to be vocal in opposing the Civil Unions Bill. The bill is currently being considered by the Maltese legislature and would give same-sex couples the same rights as married couples, including adoption. 

“He was quite shocked by the issue of civil unions and gay adoptions in Malta,” the bishop told The Sunday Times of Malta.

“We discussed many aspects… and when I raised the issue that’s worrying me as a bishop [the right for gay couples to adopt] he encouraged me to speak out,” he added.

The mainstream media has widely reported that the pope is softening the Church’s stand on homosexuality, basing the claim on a remark he gave on the plane home from World Youth Day in July.

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“When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby,” the pope said. “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … they're our brothers.”

While the remarks have been interpreted by some as a departure from, or at least a change in emphasis on, Church teaching, the pope has insisted that he is a “son of the Church.”

Bishop Scicluna says the pope reiterated his opposition to homosexual adoption when he informed the pontiff that his critics were quoting Francis’ remarks.

“I said Holy Father they’re quoting you now, and not as Cardinal Bergoglio from 2010,” the bishop said. “But he reiterated that gay adoptions are ‘un rigresso antropologico’ [an anthropological regression]… I have to say the Pope himself was quite shocked.”

As a cardinal in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis condemned same-sex “marriage” as a “machination of the Father of lies” and said homosexual adoption discriminates against children. In a letter to a community of contemplative nuns in 2010, the future pope urged them to pray “fervently” for the defeat of Argentine’s same-sex “marriage” bill, which ultimately passed that year.

“In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family,” he wrote. “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.”

However, a biographer of the Pope, Sergio Rubin, has claimed that the-then cardinal proposed to the country’s bishops that they support legalizing civil unions as a compromise to avoid passage of same-sex “marriage.” John Allen, Jr., of the National Catholic Reporter says the claim was confirmed to him by three unnamed sources in Argentina, two of which are senior officials at the Argentine Episcopal Conference. He reports that the conference rejected the cardinal’s proposal, and he never raised the issue in public.

The story was contested by Miguel Woites, a confidant of the Pope, however, who told ACI Prensa that it was a “complete error.” “He certainly would have referred to unions of convenience but not that anything be legalized,” said Woites.

The Vatican strongly condemned state recognition of same-sex unions in a 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed by then-prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and approved by Bl. John Paul II. 

“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. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law,” the document states.

“In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty,” it continues. “One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.”