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Pope Francis meets with Mara Grassi, vice-president of the Tenda di Gionata, Association of LGBT Christians and their parents, Sept. 17, 2020, Rome. Gionata News / Youtube

October 26, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Catholics have long extended the benefit of the doubt to Pope Francis when he frequently veers off the path of orthodoxy. With his latest statement regarding same-sex civil unions, there are no benefits in entertaining doubts. Many Catholics sense something is terribly wrong. 

“What we have to create is a civil union law,” says the pope in the documentary, “Francesco,” just released at a premiere in Rome. “That way, they are legally covered.” 

Francis’s declaration that homosexual couples need the legal protection of civil unions to protect their “right to a family” leaves no doubt that he is breaking from the Roman Catholic Church’s official teaching. A legal union centered on an intrinsically evil sexual act validates that gravely sinful act. The acceptance of such unions and their constitutive acts brings down the whole edifice of Catholic moral and social teaching. It is self-evident. It does not take a doctorate in theology to understand. Liberal media worldwide are gleefully proclaiming this rupture with the faith, making it public and notorious. 

The disastrous effects of the 'Francesco' statement

As usual, the Holy See is not denying or “clarifying” the statement in any substantial way. Some seek to restore the benefit of the doubt. The faithful are reminded that his off the cuff statements are only “personal opinion” and do not reflect official Church teaching or magisterium. Others point out that often there are errors of contexts and translation that could give this statement other meanings. However, others note that support for civil unions is not new for the pope. He has expressed this position in the past. What makes this statement different is its timing, clearer formulation and universal diffusion. 

The statement and the fact that Pope Francis is unlikely to retract it and affirm his unqualified adhesion to official Church teaching on the matter makes these sugarcoating interpretations pointless.

The statement spread uncertainty at a time when clarity is most needed. This new episode does what prior statements did: It confuses the faithful.  

Two things are certain. There can be no doubt the statement will leave the most faithful pew-sitting Catholics scrambling in the dark to defend themselves as best they can in their discussion of Pope Francis’s position with others. There can also be no doubt that the most heretical Catholic liberals will applaud this scandalous statement to support their leftist agendas. Pro-LGBTQ+ activist Jesuit Father James Martin, for example, called it “a big step forward.” 

Meanwhile, God is offended, the crisis inside the Church accelerates, and countless souls are lost for all eternity.

Not an isolated incident

The debate over the latest statement cannot be seen as an isolated fact. It should be inserted into an unbroken series of statements that embrace many aspects of Catholic morals and teaching. These are not random affirmations. They form a coherent whole. 

What has surfaced over the years of Pope Francis’s pontificate is a body of consistent statements challenging Church teachings.  How can such “personal opinions” be reconciled with the holding of the papal office? Experts will study the canonical and theological implications of this delicate question, but what is clear to the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics is that a paradigm shift inside the Church has occurred in Pope Francis’s pontificate. It is reflected throughout his official policy and governance. These attitudes have tragic consequences for the faithful in their daily lives and sanctification.  

In matters of faith and morals, the pope cannot entertain “personal” heterodox opinions. It endangers souls. No pope, bishop or priest can do this. No pastor can express approval for an intrinsically evil sexual relationship that will drag its participants to Hell unless they repent. No pastor can pursue a “personal” parallel magisterium in the form of “unofficial” acts, interviews, gestures and conversations that endorse doctrine and morals contrary to the Catholic faith.

A paradigm shift

This rupture with traditional Catholic magisterium is well documented in the 2018 book, Pope Francis’s “Paradigm Shift”: Continuity or Rupture in the Mission of the Church? An Assessment of His Pontificate’s First Five Years. Author José António Ureta — a senior French TFP member — takes a critical look at the overwhelming evidence of cases where the pope has challenged and denied traditional Church teaching, including that which condemns same-sex civil unions. 

This paradigm shift manifests itself in acts, statements and attitudes, in which he calls for a radical ecological and mystical agenda, unbridled immigration and opening up to Islam. He has promoted religious indifferentism, moral and sexual relativism and neo-Marxist popular movements. A more recent scandal of this break was the deplorable worship of the Andean idol goddess, Pachamama, at the Amazon Synod in Rome in October 2019.

The break is clear. There can be no doubt. The “Francesco” statement on civil unions is one more in a long list of grave denials. The painful conclusion is that Francis’s personal opinions do not reflect Church teaching.

To resist the Pope’s errors is a right and duty

What is unclear to hundreds of millions of the faithful is what should aghast Catholics do in the face of this crisis that is uniquely monumental in Church history. 

In his book, Mr. Ureta shows that the Church teaches that the pope is infallible only under certain circumstances. Outside of them, he can err. However, when the pope errs, Catholics must not err with him. Once it is seen that Francis contradicts the traditional teachings of the Church Magisterium, the faithful have the right and duty to resist his errors. This legitimate yet most respectful resistance to error in Church shepherds and even the Supreme Pontiff is defended by St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, Suarez, Vitoria and other theological giants. 

Nor is such resistance uncommon in the history of the Church.  Public resistance is a duty when attitudes endanger the faith. The author cites the model of resistance employed by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in 1974 in the face of the Vatican’s policy of détente toward communist governments. His reverent yet firm attitude was expressed in moving words: “In this filial act, we say to the Pastor of Pastors: Our soul is yours, our life is yours. Order us to do whatever you wish. Only do not order us to do nothing in the face of the assailing red wolf. To this, our conscience is opposed.”

Faithful resistance amid the blows

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PETITION: Ask Pope Francis to clarify and rectify scandalous remarks on homosexual civil unions
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Remarks attributed to Pope Francis (and, not denied by the Vatican) in support of homosexual civil unions have caused grave scandal to the faithful.

Please SIGN this urgent petition which asks Pope Francis to clarify and rectify these heterodox and scandalous remarks on homosexual civil unions, and which will be delivered both to the Vatican and to the Papal Nuncio of the United States (the Pope's official representative in the U.S.).

As the last guarantor of the Faith, the Pope should clarify and rectify these remarks, which go against the perennial teaching of the Church, even including the teaching of his living predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

"What we have to create is a law of civil coexistence [meaning civil union law, for homosexuals]...," Pope Francis is reported to have remarked, in what is arguably his clearest statement of public support for a practice morally prohibited by official Catholic Church teaching.

In fact, the Church has been crystal clear in Her opposition to homosexual unions.

Just in 2003, Pope Saint John Paul II approved a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, titled 'Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons' and written by Cardinal Ratzinger (now, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), which concludes with the following:

"The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself."

It could not be more clear: the Church is calling people to repentance, not to be left to indulge in grave sin.

Since becoming public, several senior prelates as well as other notable Catholic figures have voiced their opposition to these remarks attributed to the Pontiff.

Cardinal Raymond Burke stated: "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]."

And, Catholic theologian and apologist Scott Hahn, without directly quoting Pope Francis, 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."

But, the silence from the Vatican has been deafening, with no clarification forthcoming.

We must, therefore, ask the Pope for clarification in this serious matter.

Please SIGN and SHARE this petition which asks Pope Francis to clarify and rectify remarks attributed to him in support of homosexual civil unions.


'Cdl. Burke: Pope’s homosexual civil union remarks ‘contrary’ to Scripture, Tradition' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/cardinal-burke-on-popes-homosexual-civil-union-remarks-contrary-to-the-teaching-of-sacred-scripture-and-sacred-tradition

'Cardinal says Catholics ‘can and should’ disagree with Pope’s ‘opinion’ on gay civil unions' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/cdl.mueller-popes-words-on-gay-civil-unions-purely-private-expression-of-opinion-which-every-catholic-can-and-should-freely-contradict

'Archbishop Vigano, Bishops Tobin and Strickland respond to Pope’s approval of homosexual civil unions' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/archbishop-vigano-and-bishops-tobin-strickland-respond-to-popes-approval-of-homosexual-civil-unions

'Pope’s comments on gay civil unions cause shockwaves around the world' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/deepest-sadness-cardinal-burke-condemns-pope-franciss-remarks-supporting-civil-unions

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Thus, in response to the pope’s “Francesco” statement on civil unions, Catholics must reject and resist it. They should employ every means possible to oppose this grievous error.

This includes resisting all shepherds who follow Pope Francis in this error, especially those like Father Martin, who promote it. Mr. Ureta likens the situation of faithful Catholics to that of a wife and children of a psychologically abusive husband and father. Without abandoning the family home, mother and children may legitimately isolate themselves from the father and avoid regular contact to defend themselves against his evil ways. In this manner, the indissoluble marriage bond is not broken, and the father is encouraged to repent. 

Instead of revolting and leaving the Church, Catholics with this calm attitude of firm but reverent resistance can help save the Church. In the words of TFP founder Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira: “God calls us to be the sheep who resist the urge to bolt and flee when the shepherd abuses them repeatedly with his staff. Instead, we are called to stay and fight even when suffering this abuse. God wants this so that when He decides in His Mercy to send good shepherds again to His flock, there will be a flock for them to govern.

Thus, Catholics should defend themselves and serenely resist the actions of pastors at all levels who endanger the faith. They can react with clarity and charity, distancing themselves from the actions of these errant pastors. They can help dispel the doubts in the souls of fellow Catholics, explaining to them how to remain faithful to Christ every time Pope Francis makes unorthodox declarations. 

John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order, as well as the author of hundreds of published articles. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.