In a new documentary about Pope Francis, “Francesco,” the Holy Father comments on homosexuals. “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God. You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”
The Vatican website posts a news release on the movie but makes no mention of the pope’s reflections on homosexuals. Is it because what he said does not change Church doctrine? Or is it because they want to avoid controversy? The former is true and the latter may also be.
Before commenting on what the pope said, it is important to recognize what he did not say. He did not endorse gay marriage. That is because he cannot: It would be against everything he has previously said, and it would conflict with official Church teachings on the subject.
In 2010, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires (and future Pope Francis), mobilized Catholics to defeat a law affirming gay marriage. Though he failed in his quest, he was quite blunt about his opposition to same-sex marriage.
“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.”
Who was behind the push for gay marriage? Satan.
“Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.” The “father of lies” whom he speaks of is the Devil.
The would-be pope tried to work out a compromise with Argentinean authorities at the time. That is why he floated the idea of recognizing civil unions. But it was clear that would not satisfy, so nothing came of it.
The pope’s statement about homosexuals having a right to be in a family, and that they cannot be kicked out, is of course true. He was referring to what sociologists call the “family of orientation,” meaning the family we were born into. He was not referring to what is called the “family of procreation,” meaning the family we make as adults.
To be exact, homosexual acts cannot result in procreation, which is why the Church teaches that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered. Indeed, homosexuals owe their very existence to opposite-sex unions. Moreover, the pope knows that “gay families” are not legitimate.
Two years ago, Pope Francis said only heterosexuals can form a family. “It is painful to say this today: People speak of varied families, of various kinds of families,” but “the family [as] man and woman in the image of God is the only one.”
If the pope did not change any Church teaching on homosexuality or marriage, why did he make the remarks attributed to him in the documentary?
This appears to be one more instance where he is trying to reach out to homosexuals, letting them know that their sexual status does not disqualify them from God’s love. There is a huge difference, however, between the sexual status of an individual, and the social status of an institution, such as marriage and the family. The pope knows the difference, even if some of his gay fans do not.
It would be helpful for the Vatican to clarify what the pope meant. The content of his remarks is not problematic, but the lack of context is. The laity need clarity, not confusion.