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November 13, 2020 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. I am angry with Pope Francis for giving approval to “civil unions.” I know that he was not speaking authoritatively, or infallibly, as Pope, but most people can’t make that distinction. They see the headlines and think that the Church has changed her position on homosexual unions. I am angry because his statement will encourage those with homosexual leanings to pursue that lifestyle. Why would God allow him to do this? — T.M.D., Massachusetts.
Q. Some say that Pope Francis has apparently condoned “civil unions” in a current documentary, but my pastor has made a statement indicating that the Spanish phrase in the original language could also be translated “civil cohabitation,” which would give a different meaning to the Pope’s words. What do you think? — D.M., Virginia.
A. First of all, let’s be clear what we are talking about. At the Rome Film Festival last month, a documentary on the social agenda of Pope Francis was released by filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky. Entitled Francesco, the documentary chronicled statements that the Holy Father has made over the years, including his encouragement of two Italian men in a same-sex relationship to raise their children in their local parish. Also included were excerpts from a 2019 interview in which Francis said that “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.” He said that “what we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”
The position of the Church on civil unions was reiterated by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2003. In a document that was approved by Pope St. John Paul II, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, said:
“Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, 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.”
The CDF also said that it would be “gravely immoral” for any lawmaker “to vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good.” Does that mean that the Holy Father is guilty of gravely immoral conduct in giving his approval to such unions?
His critics did not use that specific language, but they voiced very strong opinions. For example, Archbishop Hector Aguer, who served as an auxiliary to Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio in Buenos Aires in the nineties, said that “ecclesiastical approval for ‘civil unions’ will favor the de-Christianization and dehumanization of society.”
Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan said that “since homosexual sins belong to sins which cry to Heaven, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says (see n. 1867), those who advocate same-sex civil unions are ultimately unjust and even cruel against those persons who are living in these unions because these persons will be confirmed in mortal sin.” He said that “every shepherd of the Church, and the Pope above all, should always remind others of these serious words of our Lord: ‘Anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of Heaven’ (Matt. 5:19).”
Fr. Gerald Murray said that the Pope’s comments “are a flagrant betrayal of the mission of the Successor of St. Peter ‘to confirm the brethren’ in sound doctrine.” He said that “Pope Francis has used the power and influence of his sacred office to promote something that is sinful. That is not the mission entrusted by Christ to St. Peter and his Successors. Catholic doctrine on the immorality of homosexual acts cannot be changed by Pope Francis or any other Pope.”
D.M.’s pastor said that “while we must always show respect for the Office of Peter, and have a true filial love for our Holy Father, that does not mean we must agree with everything he says, especially when he shares a private opinion, as is the case here. . . . Regardless of how we might clarify the words, they have still caused great moral confusion, confusion that should have been readily anticipated. This is why, with all due respect to our Holy Father, in my humble opinion, the Pope’s public statement of his private opinion was grossly imprudent and possibly gravely scandalous.”
Agreeing was Catholic Culture columnist Phil Lawler, who said that Pope Francis has made numerous statements, “which, if they do not flatly contradict Catholic doctrine, undoubtedly shake public confidence in the permanent teaching. It is increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that this Pope wants to cause confusion.”
Lawler, author of Last Shepherd, which chronicles some of Francis’ previous confusing statements, said that “each time the Church’s teaching is thrown into question by a new papal novelty, some loyal Catholics are shocked and dismayed, while others work feverishly to reconcile the latest statement with the enduring Magisterium. And radical Catholics, who really do want to overturn established dogma, rub their hands gleefully and seize another opportunity.”
In the last category is Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin, SJ, who saw the statement as “a major step forward in the Church’s support for LGBTQ people.” Not so, said Protestant evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham, who found the Pope’s comments “unthinkable in the light of the Word of God. For Pope Francis to attempt to normalize homosexuality is to say that Holy Scriptures are false, that our sins really don’t matter, and that we can continue living in them. If that were true, then Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and Resurrection wouldn’t have been needed. The cross would have been for nothing. No one has the right or the authority to trivialize Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.”
Apart from the confusion caused by the latest comments from Pope Francis, along with the scandal of his endorsement of same-sex unions and the consequent gravely sinful behavior that accompanies them, there is the cruel betrayal of former homosexuals who are trying to lead chaste lives.
The Pope’s opinion was like a shot that “went straight to my heart,” said Paul Darrow, one of three Same-Sex Attracted (SSA) Catholics in the film Desire of the Everlasting Hills. He said that “as a Catholic with SSA, I was called to see the bigger picture and to turn away from my sex-addicted life. In that picture I recognized the real purpose of sexual intimacy and discovered that my body truly is the temple of the Holy Spirit. One of the saddest things a chaste, faith-filled Catholic like me could hear is that the Successor of the Chair of Peter has just endorsed civil unions — the first stage of the rockets that brought gay ‘marriage’ into being.”
Agreeing was Jeremy Schwab, who returned to the Catholic Church and founded Joel 2:25, a Christian ministry that supports those affected by SSA. He said that “before I became a Catholic, I had studied the history and knew about the scandals of medieval Popes and the worst sinners in Church history. None of that disturbs me the way this Pope does.”
Thomas Berryman asks, “Where does this leave me? Who can I trust? Celibate priests and bishops in Detroit [Berryman’s diocese] are an endangered species. How can I go to anyone for counseling who probably thinks I’m a fool and holds me in contempt? How do I seek absolution from someone who thinks the sins I’m confessing are funny and thinks I’m a fool for believing them to be sins?”
Regarding our two questioners, we have seen articles on both sides of whether the phrase “civil unions” is translated correctly, but does it really matter? As to why God doesn’t do something about this, what would you have Him do? He gives us free will and so even a Pope can err when he is not speaking infallibly.
It must be remembered, said newly elected Pope Benedict XVI in a homily on May 7, 2005, that “the Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary, the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to His Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down and every form of opportunism.”
We need to pray all the more fervently that Pope Francis will reverse himself and faithfully present God’s teaching on the disordered nature of homosexuality. It is one thing to accompany the sinner on the road to holiness, but it is gravely wrong to support him in a sin that can lead to eternal damnation.

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