ROME – The Vatican says Pope Francis ‘comments on gay civil unions were taken out of context in a documentary that pieced together bits and pieces of an old interview, but nonetheless confirmed Francis’ belief that gay couples should enjoy legal protection.
The Vatican State Secretariat provided guidelines to the ambassadors to explain the turmoil caused by Francis’ comments following the premiere of the film “Francesco” on October 21 at the Rome Film Festival. The Natio of the Vatican in Mexico, Archbishop Franco Coppola, posted the unsigned instructions on its Facebook page on Sunday.
In it, the Vatican confirmed that Francis was referring to his position in 2010 when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires and strongly opposed to measures to enable same-sex marriage. Instead, he advocated extending legal protection to gay couples under what is known in Argentina as the Civil Union Act.
Although Francis was known to have held this position privately, he never articulated his support as Pope. As a result, the comments made headlines, largely because the Vatican Doctrine Office issued a document in 2003 prohibiting such endorsement. The document, signed by Francis’ predecessor as Pope, states that the Church’s support for gay people “can in no way lead to the recognition of homosexual behavior or the legal recognition of homosexual unions”.
The recent turmoil gained even more attention when it was found that director Evgeny Afineevsky had misled journalists by claiming that Francis gave him comments in a recent interview. A week before the premiere, when asked about the Civil Union’s comments, Afineevsky told The Associated Press that he had two interviews with the Pope on camera. In comments to journalists after the premiere, he claimed that the civil union footage came from an interview with the Pope with a translator present.
It turned out that Francis’ comments were apparently taken from an interview with Mexican broadcaster Televisa in May 2019, which never aired. The Vatican has not confirmed or denied reports from sources in Mexico that the Vatican cut the quote from footage it provided Televisa after the interview, which was filmed with Vatican cameras.
Afineevsky was apparently given access to the original uncut recordings in the Vatican archives.
The guidelines issued by the State Secretariat do not deal with the subject of the abridged quote or the one that comes from the Televisa interview. It just means that it was from a 2019 interview and that the comments used in the documentation pieced together parts of two different answers in a way that removed the crucial context.
“More than a year ago, Pope Francis answered two different questions at two different times during an interview that were edited and published in the above documentation as a single answer without proper contextualization, which has created confusion,” the instructions read Posted by Coppola.
In the film, Afineevsky tells the story of Andrea Rubera, a married gay Catholic, who wrote Francis and asked him for advice on taking his three young children to church with his husband.
Given that the Catholic Church teaches that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect, that homosexual acts are “inherently disordered”, this was a difficult question. The Church also believes that marriage is an indissoluble bond between a man and a woman, and therefore gay marriage is unacceptable.
At the end Rubera tells how Francis urged him to approach his church transparently and raise the children in the faith, which he did. After the anecdote ends, the film cuts to Francis’ comments from the Televisa interview.
“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God, ”said Francis. “You can’t kick someone out of a family or make their life miserable for it. What we must have is a civil union law; that way they are legally protected.”
Francis’ comments on gays who have the right to be in a family referred to parents with gay children and the need not to kick out or discriminate against their children, the Vatican authorities say.
Francis did not advocate gay couples’ right to adopt children, although the placement of the quote immediately after Rubera told his story made it appear that it was Francis.
The Pope’s comments on gay civil unions came from another part of the Televisa interview and contained several reservations that were not in the film.
In an interview with Televisa, Francis made it clear that he was explaining his position on the unique case in Buenos Aires 10 years ago, in contrast to Rubera’s situation or gay marriage as a whole.
In the interview with Televisa, Francis also insisted that he always adhere to Catholic doctrine, saying that there was an “incongruence” for the Catholic Church with regard to “homosexual marriage”.
The documentary removed that context.
The Televisa footage is available online and contains an uncomfortable cut immediately after Francis spoke about the “incongruence” of gay marriage. Presumably he retired to his position as archbishop there to advocate extending legal protection to gay couples.
Neither the Vatican nor Afineevsky responded to repeated questions about the cut quote or its origin.
The Vatican leadership insists that Francis not contradict church teaching. However, it does not explain how its support for the extension of Argentine legal protections to gay couples in 2010 could be compared to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document of 2003 which states, “The principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot apply are made to support the legal recognition of homosexual unions. “