In a new documentary premiered in the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday 22nd October, “Francesco”, Pope Francis voiced his support for same sex couples and their legal protection. This documentary delved into the life and ministry of the Pope.
During this documentary, the Pope stated that those who form part of the LGBTIQ community should be allowed to have legally recognised civil unions and that such individuals are equally children of God and therefore have the right for family life. He voiced that nobody should be thrown out or be treated differently because of it. This was the first time that a Pope spoke publicly in support of such a controversial issue.
The Pope said “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”
As the Pope has often said, this does not mean that he believes that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. On a number of occasions, Pope Francis has warned against threats to the institution of marriage and described it as a sacrament between a man and a woman.
The statement has been interpreted by many as a departure from the position of his predecessors on the issue. In fact, it is also presumed that this deviation from church doctrine thrilled liberal Catholics and LGBTIQ activists and infuriated the conservatives. In 2010, when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis had already expressed support for gay civil unions, but only as an alternative to gay marriage.
After the film’s release, questions arose about the quote’s origin, whether the Pope’s words had been manipulated either through video editing or a mistranslation.
The Vatican press office did not answer requests for clarification. Meanwhile, the film’s director, Oscar nominated Evgeny Afineevsky, insisted that he had conducted his own interviews directly with the Pope.
Human Rights Watch praised the Pope’s comments, saying that his call for legal protection would aid movements in countries which are predominantly catholic such as Poland and the Philippines to legalise same sex couples.
Conservative Catholics, on the other hand, said that these remarks continued to add confusion amongst those who are faithful to the Church and its teaching.
Conservative U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, known to be a frequent critic of Pope Francis, stated that his remarks “are contrary to the teaching of the Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition” and that these comments are not binding in any way.