Statement of Bishop regarding comments by Pope Francis in a documentary film
Recent unofficial comments by Pope Francis in an unscripted interview in Spanish regarding the question of “civil unions” have gained wide attention. Even though the full context of the interview is not clear, the question he may have been answering is unknown, and the pope’s response has been variously translated, many have already rushed to conclusions.
From Pope Francis’ words, one can gather his desire to emphasize that persons with homosexual tendencies should not be disowned, but should be treated with respect and dignity in their families. The Holy Father is reaffirming the teaching of the Catholic Church that persons with homosexual tendencies: “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2358).
In the documentary film, Pope Francis discussed “a law of civil coexistence” (una ley de una convivencia civil) for persons of homosexual orientation. While open to varying interpretations, this statement does not change the teaching of Jesus and his Church on the nature of marriage. Pope Francis, both as a bishop and as pope, has consistently emphasized that marriage should be exclusively defined as the life-long partnership between one man and one woman.
As Pope Francis affirmed in Amoris Laetitia “the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life. We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society” (#52).
Catholics and non-Catholics alike should understand that unscripted comments expressed by a pope in a media interview for a film are not an official and authoritative exercise of the papal teaching office. The pope’s recent comments should be weighed within the context of prior official papal and Magisterial teachings, avoiding the spread of misinformation, misinterpretation of settled Church teaching, and misleading headlines.
In addition to Bishop Thomas' comments above, you may also read the response from the Apostolic Nuncio. It can be found here.