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Vatican: Pope Francis wasn’t talking about same-sex relationships; Update: “Civil unions” explained

posted at 6:01 pm on March 5, 2014 by

One of these days, Pope Francis will give an interview in English. What will the media do then? In the latest version of That’s Not What The Pontiff Said, the Vatican is acting quickly to dispel the idea that Francis endorsed gay relationships in his interview with Corriere della Sera:. The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein tweeted out the response:

Frankly, I didn’t see anything in the primary reporting that even suggested a same-sex relationship context.

This does remind me of a conversation my young-adult group had years ago with a priest. We were discussing the church teaching on contraception, and one of our members said a friend of hers refused to use it but still had sex outside of marriage, because she thought the contraception was sinful. The priest laughed and said, “Look, if you’re having sex outside of marriage, that’s a lot bigger deal than whether you use contraception with it.”

It’s a matter of perspective. Yes, couples will cohabitate rather than get married, and yes it’s still a sin. But — and this really isn’t new for the church or Francis — that doesn’t mean that society should not order itself to civilly protect people who enter into those arrangements with property rights and access to critical services, while the church tries to instruct on sin and help people to see the error of their ways.

Update: Fr. Thomas Rosica, who handles English translations at the Vatican (and French too, as I recall), issued a statement last night that reminds everyone that “civil unions” in Italy refer to civil marriage:

On behalf of the Vatican, Fr. Thomas Rosica released the following statement regarding certain interpretations of the interview:

“There have been numerous questions, calls and messages throughout the day today regarding Pope Francis’ recent interview in the Italian daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera, particularly referring to the section on marriage and civil unions.  Some journalists have interpreted the Pope’s words in the interview to reflect an openness on the part of the Church to civil unions. Others have interpreted his words to be addressing the question of same-sex marriage. I have consulted with Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, throughout the afternoon and have prepared the following notes on Pope Francis’ interview.

Asked specifically about “unioni civili,” (civil unions), Pope Francis responded:

“Il matrimonio e’ fra un uomo e una donna.  Gli Stati laici vogliono giustificare le unioni civili per regolare diverse situazioni di convivenza, spinti dall’esigenza di regolare aspetti economici fra le persone, come ad esempio assicurare l’assistenza sanitaria.  Si tratta di patti di convivenza di varia natura, di cui non saprei elencare le diverse forme.  Bisogna vedere i diversi casi e valutarli nella loro varieta’.”

My translation:

“Marriage (matrimony) is between a man and a woman. Civil states want to justify civil unions in order to regulate (normalize) different arrangements of cohabitation; – prompted by the necessity of regulating (normalizing) economic aspects among people, for example in providing health insurance or benefits. This consists of different kinds of living arrangements which I wouldn’t know how to enumerate with precision. We must consider different cases and evaluate each particular case.”

[It is important to understand here that “civil unions” in Italy refer to people who are married by the state, outside of a religious context.]

Journalists have asked if the Pope was referring specifically to gay civil unions in the above response. The Pope did not choose to enter into debates about the delicate matter of gay civil unions. In his response to the interviewer, he emphasized the natural characteristic of marriage between one man and one woman, and on the other hand, he also spoke about the obligation of the state to fulfill its responsibilities towards its citizens.

By responding in this way, Pope Francis spoke in very general terms, and did not specifically refer to same-sex marriage as a civil union. Pope Francis simply stated the issues and did not interfere with positions held by Episcopal Conferences in various countries dealing with the question of civil unions and same sex marriage.

We should not try to read more into the Pope’s words that what has been stated in very general terms.”

In fairness, I had forgotten that, too. Thanks to Erika M for the update.

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Really? So the explanation, and context, is because we’re too coddled to know better? So on this one thread, I’ve been called dumb, I’ve been called a liar, and now I’m being called spoiled.

Keep it up, papists! You’re great ambassadors for the faith!/

You aren’t Catholic, so I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the EWTN Latin Mass Catholics who have been coddled by the last two popes.

Illinidiva on March 6, 2014 at 2:58 PM

You aren’t Catholic, so I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the EWTN Latin Mass Catholics who have been coddled by the last two popes.

Illinidiva on March 6, 2014 at 2:58 PM

I grew up Catholic, douchebag. I probably know more about the actual history and evolution of Roman Catholicism than most Catholic laypeople do. I am not coming at this from the standpoint of just another yokel criticizing the church from the outside; I made a conscious decision to step away from a church that I believe is NOT Christ’s body on Earth. So go find another tree to bark up.

gryphon202 on March 6, 2014 at 3:11 PM

There is truth here, no doubt. But hearing a never-ending stream of misquotes and twisting of remarks from this pope does raise my suspicion. I don’t recall a similar level of misrepresenting other pope’s words in the past. But maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

yaedon on March 6, 2014 at 9:37 AM

It happened all the time with Benedict. All. The. Time. Take Illinidiva, for example. She clearly doesn’t understand the SSPX, their canonical state, nor their core beliefs, but she simply piles on Benedict as if he’s an anti-Semite. And, she accuses the Holy Father of starting a riot in the Middle East in his tame speech. All of those lines were parroted by media outlets who had decided upon his election that Benedict was going to be a harsh conservative reactionary pope. Those same media outlets have already decided that Francis is a progressive, so the put progressive ideas into his mouth, when they aren’t there.

mrteachersir on March 7, 2014 at 1:57 PM

The issue is that Benedict sought to rehabilitate a small schismatic group that was excommunicated by JPII. The group has issues with the Vatican II Council in the 1960s. Some people seem to focus on the Mass, but it really has to do with the other parts of the Vatican II Council, especially the teachings against anti-Semitism. I don’t think that Benedict actually comprehended what the group was about until too late or that the above bishop denied the Holocaust; he is a lousy judge of character when it comes to his closest aides. He didn’t know, but it was a huge gaffe.

Illinidiva

That is not entirely accurate, well, its mostly inaccurate. The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in reaction to the liberalizing and abandonment of the Church’s moral, theological, architectural and liturgical practices that emerged after the Second Vatican Council. The Council of Trent codified the Mass (also called the Tridentine Mass) as the “Mass for All Time” (it actually has its roots in the 7th Century, when Pope St. Gregory the Great unified the liturgical practices of the Gallicans and Italians into the “Roman Rite”). The Council’s calls, and the Concillium’s alterations to the form of Mass were in direct conflict with the Council of Trent’s proclamation. In fact, Dr. Germaine Grisez and Fr. John Ford, SJ, who advised Pope Paul VI on Humanae Vitae, argued that the illogical conclusion that many who wanted to reverse the Apostolic-era ban on contraception was in part based on the changing of the Mass. The logic is simple and hard to refute: the Mass had been essentially the same for over 1200 years. It being the public act of Faith, the most sacred act the Church offers, it reflected the Church’s consistency on matters of Faith and Morals. Changing it gave people the impression that everything was up for reconsideration. This is what the SSPX was upset over.

Further, the SSPX isn’t a small extremist group of anti-Semites. It is a Catholic group that adheres to traditional forms of worship, prayer, and devotion. That is the crux of their organization. It was never excommunicated under Bl. John Paul II. Three bishops were excommunicated, as is commanded by Canon Law, because the ordinations took place without papal approval (the ordaining bishop had died). The SSPX is growing in many places in the world, particularly in France and Germany (as well as in the US). Benedict did what any Vicar of Christ would do: attempt to bring them completely back into the fold of the Church and to normalize their priests and bishops. The first step was to liberalize the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (which also warmed up ties with the Orthodox Churches), the second step was to lift the excommunications of the three bishops. The third was to begin talks to reconcile the Society with the Council. Since the election of Pope Francis, those talks have stalled.

mrteachersir on March 7, 2014 at 2:27 PM

Again, he is not the pope of Argentina. He is the head of the magisterium, and Christ’s spokesperson who wields an enormous amount of power over Catholics the world over. If one person in the entire RCC should never have to have his words “put in context,” I would think it would be him.

gryphon202 on March 6, 2014 at 11:44 AM

This is incorrect. Just because he is the head of the Church Universal, doesn’t mean that he is adept or knowledgeable about all cultures, all traditions or all political euphemisms. The fact is, the phrase “capitalism” in Catholic parlance (and in European and South American parlance) means something totally different than in American parlance. When the Church references “capitalism” it refers to the economic system in which the primary motivation is profit, and people are used as pawn to obtain as much profit as possible. This includes crony capitalism, child labor, workhouses, etc. Historically, these aberrations were quite common in Europe and Latin America, whereas they were tempered in the US. In Centesimus Annus, John Paul II differentiated between the “free market”, in which meeting the needs of fellow man was the primary motivator (which actually aligns with Adam Smith) and “capitalism”, in which amassing the largest profit is the primary motivator.

That is completely different that our understanding of “capitalism” in the US. We use it to mean “free market”. We encourage competition and fair play. We encourage entrepreneurs, start-ups and innovation. We look for new and more efficient methods of doing things, in order to meet peoples’ needs more efficiently. (It should be mentioned that with increase in the size of government, the typical American concept of capitalism is fading away: larger corporations see the benefits of paying off the politicians in order to crowd out competition, and increase profits. In short, the larger the government, the less of a free market we maintain.)

When Pope Francis, or Pope Benedict, or Pope John Paul or Pope Leo XIII write about capitalism, it isn’t the free-market they are discussing. It isn’t free competition, or entrepreneurs, or innovation. Its monopolies, playing financial games, human suffering, and crony capitalism.

mrteachersir on March 7, 2014 at 2:58 PM

When Pope Francis, or Pope Benedict, or Pope John Paul or Pope Leo XIII write about capitalism, it isn’t the free-market they are discussing. It isn’t free competition, or entrepreneurs, or innovation. Its monopolies, playing financial games, human suffering, and crony capitalism.

mrteachersir on March 7, 2014 at 2:58 PM

Well then, Mr. Interpreter, show me where Francis uses the words “crony” or “monopoly” in any of his writings and I will concede your point. Until you can do that, you’re putting words into his mouth just like every good papist seems eager to do nowadays. He ain’t my pope.

gryphon202 on March 8, 2014 at 12:39 PM

Look, I’m a practicing Catholic, but I’m frustrated that a guy who holds a very, very high job as a communicator is so weak at his poor choice of words. He still doesn’t seem to understand that the leftist media is chomping at the bit to push him to left or at least make him look like he’s a leftists.

BillCarson on March 8, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Look, I’m a practicing Catholic, but I’m frustrated that a guy who holds a very, very high job as a communicator is so weak at his poor choice of words. He still doesn’t seem to understand that the leftist media is chomping at the bit to push him to left or at least make him look like he’s a leftists.

BillCarson on March 8, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Bill, can you entertain the thought that Pope Francis may be cut from the same cloth as Father Pfleger? Is that even in your realm of possibility? Because if it’s not…well let’s just say I don’t think most of the Catholic laity understands just how far humanity has fallen writ-large.

gryphon202 on March 8, 2014 at 6:40 PM

Bill, can you entertain the thought that Pope Francis may be cut from the same cloth as Father Pfleger? Is that even in your realm of possibility? Because if it’s not…well let’s just say I don’t think most of the Catholic laity understands just how far humanity has fallen writ-large.

gryphon202 on March 8, 2014 at 6:40 PM

Oh, my…

No one thinks humanity has fallen farther than I think it has, but if you think Pope Francis is ‘cut from the same cloth as’ that heretic Father Pfleger, then you aren’t paying attention to what Pope Francis and then Cardinal Bergoglio has written and more importantly DONE. For example, I can’t for the life of me imagine Father Pfleger ever excommunicating a priest for his support of ‘women priests’ or homosexual practices like Pope Francis has done. Yes, his off the cuff comments are sometimes twisted and in all honesty, poorly worded. I think we were very spoiled by the careful beloved Benedict, but it is important to note that media figures will twist and even make up from whole cloth things that the Pope may or may not have said. Take the atheist Scalfari admitting that some of what he wrote in his ‘interview’ the Pope didn’t even say. Shameful. Still, the Pope needs to be more careful and take the wise as serpent part a bit more to heart.

gryphon202 on March 6, 2014 at 3:11 PM

May I ask where you think the ‘body of Christ’ on earth is if not in the Tabernacles of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church? Not trying to pick a fight, just sincerely wondering how anyone who knows so much about the Faith could walk away from Christ Truly Present, or did you go to the Orthodox?

pannw on March 8, 2014 at 8:20 PM

May I ask where you think the ‘body of Christ’ on earth is if not in the Tabernacles of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church? Not trying to pick a fight, just sincerely wondering how anyone who knows so much about the Faith could walk away from Christ Truly Present, or did you go to the Orthodox?

pannw on March 8, 2014 at 8:20 PM

The body of Christ is in his people. Not some hierarchial magisterium. The two great summations of the law were reiterated by Jesus Christ himself: Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. I see the modern Roman Catholic Church lacking on both counts. Mene mene thekel u-pharsin.

I now consider myself an unchurched Christian, and I couldn’t be happier with the relationship I have with Jesus Christ in every aspect of my life. I rejected the magisterium, not him.

gryphon202 on March 9, 2014 at 12:14 PM

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