Controversial Remarks of Pope Francis

Written By: Clare Kelly 

Photo courtesy of The Catholic Church of England and Wales

On Oct. 25, headlines rained in with Pope Francis’ approval of same-sex unions as every news agency reported the lines within the documentary, entitled “Francesco,”  in which Pope Francis allegedly agreed with this controversial Catholic teaching. The documentary premiered on Wednesday, Oct. 21 during the Rome Film Festival reported Paul Elie for the New Yorker. The film and the comments appeared with the approval of the Vatican. In a news briefing, the Vatican released that the film, directed by Evgeny Afineevsky, combines “voices and stories from the past and present” of people affected by the Pope. On Oct. 22, the film received the 18th Kinéo Prize. The Vatican News reported that the “‘Kinéo Movie for Humanity Award’ is awarded to those who promote social and humanitarian themes”; this year, Rosetta Sannelli, the establisher of the award, presented the award herself. 

As reported by Vatican News, Rosetta Sannelli said, “Every one of Pope Francis’ journeys to various parts of the world…is documented in Afineevsky’s work through images and news footage, and reveals an authentic glimpse into events of our time.” 

As reported by the New Yorker, Pope Francis said this controversial comment: “Homosexual people have a right to be in the family. They are children of God. They have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out of the family or made miserable over this. What we have to make is a law of civil coexistence, for they have the right to be legally covered. I stood up for that.” While the comments gained Papal support from LGBTQ people and organizations, religious organizations are trying to justify the Pope’s comments. 

After controversy surfaced, the details of the 2019 interview showed that according to America the Jesuit Review, the Mexican network, Televisa, never shared the interview until now.  The New Yorker reports the comments of James Martin, a Jesuit Priest, who wrote about the reasoning Pope Francis’ comments are significant,commented on Twitter, with “he is saying them as Pope, not Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Second, he is clearly supporting, not simply tolerating, civil unions. Third, he is saying it on camera, not privately.” 

On the contrary, the U.S. Catholic organization sought to clarify the remarks of the Pope. As Jacob KohlHaas wrote “official Catholic teaching has not changed” for the teaching to be official, Pope Francis would have to make the statement officially as the Pope. KohlHaas argues, to the contrary of James Martin’s comments, that the Pope’s comments within a documentary do not establish this principle. 

CBS News reported the split this created. While these comments excited liberal Catholics and LGBTQ activists to see the Pope accepting these people, Catholic conservatives actively spoke out against the comments. The Pope has a history with this issue,  as he communicated support for same-sex unions as an option contrary to gay marriage while he served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. 

Despite the controversy surrounding the Pope’s comments, the Catholic teaching on same-sex unions has not been changed. However, this still does not solve the questions regarding Pope Francis’ comments. As reported by CBS News, the transcript from the Vatican indicated that the comments said by the Pope were not said consecutively; instead, the documentary presented all of his comments as one. While Pope Francis referred to the “right of gay people to be accepted into their own families,” the documentary produced all of the comments together as if they were said together. CBS News mentioned their request for more information regarding the ambiguity behind these comments but received no clarification from the Vatican press office.

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