The original interviews make clear the pope's stance.
On Sunday, Vatican reporter Austen Ivereigh tweeted the text of a letter in Spanish from the Vatican secretariat of state regarding the media reports surrounding a documentary on Pope Francis that contains comments on civil unions for same-sex couples.
Ivereigh tweeted that it was sent “via a Latin-American nuncio at the request of Sec of State.”
The nuncio was Archbishop Franco Coppolo, the pope’s representative in Mexico, who posted it on Facebook on October 30, saying “some helpful points are offered, with the desire to present an adequate understanding of the Holy Father’s words.”
The document primarily gives the context for the quotes in the Francesco documentary, which were pieced together from two separate previous interviews.
With the full context of the quotes, it is clear that Pope Francis is speaking about his own efforts to preserve marriage in the legal battle that faced Argentina during his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The interviews also show how the pope was emphatic in affirming marriage, as he has done on many occasions.
Here is our translation of the message from the Vatican secretary of state.
GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING SOME OF THE POPE’S EXPRESSIONS IN THE DOCUMENTARY “FRANCISCO”
Some statements, contained in the documentary “Francisco” by scriptwriter Evgeny Afineevsky, have provoked, in the past days, diverse reactions and interpretations. Therefore, we are offering some useful points, with the desire of promoting an adequate understanding of the Holy Father’s words.
More than a year ago, during an interview, Pope Francis answered two different questions at two different times which, in the aforementioned documentary, were edited and published as a single answer without the proper contextualization. This has created confusion. The Holy Father had first made a pastoral reference to the need, within a family, for a son or daughter with a homosexual orientation never be to be discriminated against. To them are referred the words: “homosexual persons have the right to be in a family; they are children of God, they have the right to a family. No one can be thrown out of the family, nor can life be made impossible for them on this account.”
The following paragraph from the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on love in the family Amoris Laetitia (2016) can shed light on these expressions:
During the Synod, we discussed the situation of families whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy either for parents or for children. We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence. Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives.” (no. 250).
A later question in the interview was focused instead on a local law from ten years ago in Argentina regarding “marriage equality for same-sex couples” and the opposition of the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires on this subject. In this regard, Pope Francis stated that “it is incongruous to speak of homosexual marriage,” adding that, in that same context, he had spoken of the right these people have to a certain amount of legal coverage: “What we have to do is [make] a civil union law; they have the right to be legally covered. I defended that.” (The legal term in Spanish the Holy Father used in this case for civil unions is “convivencia civil,” Ed.)
The Holy Father had expressed himself in the following way during an interview in 2014: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. Lay States want to justify civil unions in order to regulate various situations of cohabitation, moved by the need to regulate economic aspects between people, such as ensuring health care. It is a matter of cohabitation agreements of different natures, the different forms of which I would not know how to give a list. It is necessary to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety.”
It is therefore clear that Pope Francis has referred to certain state provisions, not certainly to the doctrine of the Church, which has been reaffirmed many times over the years.