On Jan. 3, the Italian Jesuit periodical La Civilta Cattolica published a 14-page account of Pope Francis' Nov. 29 conversation with a group of superiors general from religious orders.
While discussing marginalization, culture, and education as the frontiers of mission, the Pope recalled that in Argentina he met “a very sad little girl who finally confided in her teacher the reason for her state of mind: 'my mother's girlfriend doesn't love me.' The percentage of children studying in schools who have separated parents is very high. The situation in which we live now provides us with new challenges which sometimes are difficult for us to understand.”
“How can we proclaim Christ to these boys and girls? How can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing? We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them.”
Some Italian news agencies, as well as the French news agency AFP, reported on the 14-page account as though Pope Francis had made indicated some opening towards gay marriages or civil unions.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Holy See press officer, said Jan. 6 that the Pope's “point about the educational responsibilities of the Church, which in a sense is fairly obvious, was made on Nov. 29 in entirely general terms, (but) has been placed by various Italian media outlets in the context of the question raised in recent days of recognition of civil unions of homosexual couples.”
“It is completely self-evident,” he said, that the topic was “forced … so much so that in some cases it seems the Pope’s remark is being manipulated. To speak of an ‘openness to gay couples’ is paradoxical, because the Pope’s comment is completely general in nature and because even the small concrete example made by the Pope about (a girl who was sad because her mother's girlfriend doesn’t love her) alludes to the suffering of children.”
The Vatican spokesman emphasized that Pope Francis was addressing the fact that “the situation in which education of children takes place today is very different than in the past, because (these children) live in many difficult family situations, such as parents who are separated, anomalous new unions, sometimes even homosexual unions.”
He continued, saying, “education and the proclamation of the faith of course cannot ignore this reality and must be attentive to the welfare of future generations, affectionately accompanying them in their current context, in order not to provoke negative reactions contrary to openness to the faith.”
One Italian political party has announced its support for civil unions since Pope Francis spoke to the superiors general, and Fr. Lombardi said the Pope had “absolutely not expressed himself on the debate that reopened in Italy only a month later.”
“Those who remember the positions he expressed earlier in Argentina during similar debates know that they were completely different from what some people are now trying surreptitiously to attribute to him.”
In a July 2010 letter to Carmelite nuns of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio asked them to pray for the defeat of a gay marriage bill and criticized it in strong language.
“Let’s not be naïve: This is a not simple political struggle, but an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill but a move of the Father of Lies, who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God,” he wrote.
The Vatican's spokesman says some coverage of Pope Francis’ comment about a child of a same-sex couple is “forced” and a “manipulation” of his primary concern about evangelizing in new cultural environments.
Civil Unions, Gay Marriage