Gay civil unions: Vatican clarifies Pope's words

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Ten days after the controversy aroused by the pope's outspoken support for "civil unions" for gay couples, the Vatican came out of its silence to specify in an internal note that Francis had in no way questioned the dogma of marriage between a man and woman.

In an internal note sent at the end of the week to its only ambassadors (nuncios), the Secretariat of State – the highest administration in the Vatican – insisted that the Pope had not changed the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

It is obvious that Pope Francis referred to certain state provisions, certainly not to the doctrine of the Church, often reaffirmed over the years., according to the note published in particular by the nuncio to Mexico, Archbishop Franco Coppola.

The newspaper of the Italian episcopate Avvenire stressed Monday that the letter to the nuncios is intended to circulate among bishops around the world.

In Francesco, documentary presented on Wednesday October 21 at the Rome Film Festival, Pope Francis had defended a civil union law for homosexual people, who have the right to be legally covered.

Homosexual people have the right to be with their family. They are children of God, they have the right to a family, had also declared the sovereign pontiff in this documentary directed by Evgeny Afineevsky.


The pope's words – actually a montage of two previously unreleased excerpts from a 2019 Mexican television interview – raised concerns among some traditionalist Catholics that the Pope was in favor of gay marriage.

The ultraconservative German cardinal Gerhard Müller – ex-guardian of dogma at the Vatican retired by the pope in 2017 – claimed to have received hundreds of calls from the faithful disturbed.

The Pope is not above the word of God, had he attacked in Corriere della Sera the day after the documentary was released, considering that the legal recognition of a gay civil union was prohibited for Catholics, because it could be a first step towards same-sex marriage.

In its explanatory note, the Vatican judges that the editing of the documentary, which does not include the questions asked, may have cause confusion.

The pope's exit on civil unions was a response to a question about a law promulgated 10 years ago in Argentina on same-sex marriages. In his response, the Pope is also said to have said: it's an inconsistency to talk about same-sex marriage.

Two clasped hands. On each of the wrists, we see a rainbow bracelet.

Some traditionalist Catholics fear that civil union between gay people is a first step towards same-sex marriage.

Photo: getty images / istockphoto

An idea of ​​the pope

The idea for this letter to the ambassadors came from the Pope to clarify its position and answer the questions of the faithful, specifies a Vatican source, indicating that Francis did not wish to respond directly to media pressure.

Still, the Vatican still does not explain why these extracts from an interview conducted by a great Mexican expert on the papacy could be censored in 2019, to then emerge in the documentary.

Since his election as pope, Francis had already mentioned without rejecting the notion of gay civil unions. In the documentary, however, he pleads with unprecedented precision in their favor.

His personal plea highlights a departure from an official document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the keeper of dogma in the Vatican) of 2003, which opposed legal recognition of same-sex unions that could be assimilated to marriage and spoke of a deviant behavior.

This charge was signed at the time by its leader, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, future Pope Benedict XVI.

To listen :

  • Gay rights: the pope's influence on society

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