What the Pope really said on same-sex 'civil unions'

The Pope’s comments on same-sex unions which created a media storm this week came from a severely edited interview by a totally different film maker.

Eternity reported it as “Pope on same sex unions … maybe just like the ‘no’ case.” We wrote that headline as we saw a similarity between what the Pope said in favour of some form of recognition for same-sex relationships, and the “No” case in the Australian marriage postal vote – which argued that traditional marriage itself should not be redefined. And our take on the Pope’s words has been confirmed by seeing more of the Pope’s words.

Here is what the early reports stated the Pope had said: “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 …”

The Pope added: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered, I stood up for that.”

But it has now been revealed these comments have been heavily edited from an interview conducted by a Mexican TV station. (NOTE: Link in Italian).

The comments included in the Francesco documentary were largely left out of the Mexican interview – but the off cuts from it appear to have been provided to the documentary maker. Apparently, the Vatican uses its own video crews.

The New York Times reports that “the setting appears identical to the clip used in the new documentary. In both, Francis is seated in his residence in Casa Santa Marta on a gold-trimmed chair with a honey-combed pattern chair behind his right shoulder, and a small microphone in the same spot on his robe.”

Here is a longer version of what the Pope said, as reported by the Catholic News Agency (CNA):

“I was asked a question on a flight [and] after, it made me mad, made me mad for how one news outlet transmitted it – about the familial integration of people with homosexual orientation. I said, homosexual people have a right to be in the family, people with homosexual orientation have a right to be in the family and parents have the right to recognise that son as homosexual, that daughter as homosexual. Nobody should be thrown out of the family, or be made miserable because of it.”

“And that doesn’t mean to approve of homosexual acts, not at all.” – Pope Francis

“Another thing is, I said when you see some signs in the children and from there send them to –  I should have said a ‘professional,’ what came out was ‘psychiatrist.’ I meant to say a professional because sometimes there are signs in adolescence or pre-adolescence that they don’t know if they are homosexually oriented or if it is that the thymus gland didn’t atrophy in time. Who knows, a thousand things, no? So, a professional. The title of the daily paper: ‘The Pope sends homosexuals to the psychiatrist.’ It’s not true!”

“They asked me the same question another time and I repeated it, ‘They are children of God, they have a right to a family, and such.’ Another thing is – and I explained I was wrong with that word, but I meant to say this: When you notice something strange – ‘Ah, it’s strange.’ – No, it’s not strange. Something that is outside of the usual. That is, not to take a little word to annul the context. There, what I said is that they ‘have a right to a family.’ And that doesn’t mean to approve of homosexual acts, not at all.”

And then he adds the comment about civil unions which The New York Times reports was cut from the Mexican TV interview. “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” the Pope said. “I stood up for that.”

The Pope’s comment on “homosexual acts” makes it clear that he is not shifting the church doctrine on marriage. And that in discussing families, he is making a plea for parents not to shun their homosexual son or daughter.

Labelling the news of the Pope’s full comments as “disappointing”, Out magazine gives a LGBTQ+ view on the longer version of the Pope’s remarks: “A new documentary about the life of Pope Francis gave hope to LGBTQ+ people of faith when the pontiff was quoted as calling for the creation of a ‘civil union law’ for same-sex couples, the strongest statement of support for some type of marriage equality to date from a high-ranking official in the Catholic church.”

“Those hopes were dampened almost immediately with reports that the pope’s comments were taken out of context from an earlier interview, and might not even be translated correctly.”

While “civil union” has been used in English-speaking countries to imply a marriage-style relationship, the Pope may have meant something different. CNA quotes a theologian close to the Pope, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez. as saying Francis meant “very close unions between people of the same sex, which do not in themselves imply sexual relations, but a very intense and stable alliance.”

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