Here’s another wrinkle involving those controversial comments that Pope Francis apparently made in the new documentary “Francesco.”
While filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky told CNA and other journalists that Pope Francis made comments calling for the passage of civil union laws directly to him, the comments actually appear to come from a 2019 interview of Pope Francis conducted by Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki.
The pope’s comments on civil unions, have not been disputed by the Vatican despite multiple requests for clarity. The remarks were not contained in the published version of Alazraki’s interview, and have not been seen by the public except in Francesco.
On Wednesday, however, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of the influential journal La Civiltà Cattolica, told journalists that the pope’s remarks on civil unions are excerpted from the 2019 interview, and did not dispute the way in which they were presented in the documentary.
At the same time, a CNA analysis of the interview’s transcript shows that other papal comments on homosexuality featured in Francesco were compiled by heavy editing of the 2019 interview’s video footage.
Francesco presents Pope Francis saying the following, in remarks about his approach to pastoral care:
“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”
While the pope did say those words on camera, he did not say them in that order, or use those phrases in immediate proximity.
Read on to see what was altered.
Meanwhile, my friend Father Matthew Schneider does a breakdown of the video and transcript:
It seems clear that Francis was likely already for allowing civil unions as an alternative to “gay marriage” not as something good in itself. Civil unions are much like an abortion bill making it legal before 12 weeks but illegal after. If abortion is currently fully illegal, this is a bad bill, but if abortion is currently fully legal restricting it is a good bill. Pope Francis seems to see civil unions for homosexual couples in a similar light: not the ideal but preferable to “gay marriage.” I think this is a reasonable prudential judgment within Catholic teaching.
I found the transcript and video of the interview in 2019 that the documentary clips are taken from. Both versions of the interview lack a reference to civil unions for homosexuals. It seems most likely it was cut after about 1:00:08. (Thanks to a friend on Twitter for pointing me to the cut.) At this point he is critiquing the problems with “gay marriage,” then there is a cut almost mid-sentence to another topic. I suspect someone asked then that this clip be removed to avoid being taking out of context, but the documentary filmmakers found the unedited video and then took this line out of context. The exact words before the cut are: “I always defended the doctrine, right? Curiously, in the ‘gay marriage’ law, I always defended [doctrine]: ‘gay marriage’ is incongruous.” If the quote above (“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”) came right after or soon after that, it is clear the goal is civil unions or coexistence instead of “gay marriage.”
He also quotes a Facebook post from Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, who is close to the Pope.
- He states that to him and Francis “civil unions” or “convivencia civil” laws are the same. This makes translating “civil coexistence” far less likely to be accurate. I had mentioned a possible translation issue but removed it as a highly unlikely issue. The Argentine law uses “uniones convivenciales” (literally “cohabitation unions”) as the legal term. I think this issue was due to cohabitation and civil union being separate laws in some other Spanish-speaking countries.
- He notes that such civil unions “do not in themselves imply sexual relations.” Argentine law seems to indicate similarly. The first paragraph on a government website about them states: “It is the procedure by which the State recognizes and ensures the mutual rights and obligations of two people, regardless of their sex or sexual orientation.” As far as the relationship, the requirement is cohabitating exclusively for two years or having a child together: there is no indication of what goes on in the bedroom in the law. (Beyond the fact you can get a union convivencial living together shorter if you have a child together.) Thus, I think it is reasonable to assume Francis either meant some kind of civil union in general (not specifying) or a civil union along the lines of Argentine law (which generally matches Ryan T. Anderson’s proposal above), not specifically a type of civil union that implies homosexual sexual relations.