Context of pope’s ‘civil union’ documentary comment reported

Context of pope’s ‘civil union’ documentary comment reported

Pope Francis. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
Pope Francis. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

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A fuller context of remarks from Pope Francis on civil unions in a recent documentary has emerged, while questions continue to surround the documentary, and the Vatican has not responded to requests for comment.

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” the pope is seen to say in a documentary released Wednesday, during a scene in which he talks about pastoral care for those who identify as LGBT.

“I stood up for that,” Pope Francis is seen to add.

The documentary, “Francesco,” made global headlines because of the pope’s apparent call for civil union legislation, a contrast to the position of his papal predecessors on the question.

While filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky told CNA and other journalists that Pope Francis made comments calling for the passage of civil union laws directly to him, it later emerged that the comments were actually part of a 2019 interview of Pope Francis conducted by Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki.

It was subsequently revealed that several sentences spoken by the pope in the documentary were spliced together, out of context, from the 2019 interview, and journalists have since then asked questions about the precise nature of the pope’s remarks on civil unions.

The civil union remark was not contained in the published version of Alazraki’s interview, and has not been available to the public. But America Magazine published Oct. 24 the apparent context of the pope’s remark on civil unions.

During a discussion on the pope’s opposition to a same-sex marriage proposal when he was an archbishop in Argentina, Alazraki asked Pope Francis if he had adopted more liberal positions after becoming pope, and if so, whether that was attributable to the Holy Spirit.

Alazraki  asked: “You waged a whole battle over egalitarian weddings, of couples of the same sex in Argentina. And later they say that you arrived here, they elected you pope and you appeared much more liberal than what you were in Argentina. Do you recognize yourself in this description that some people who knew you before make, and was it the grace of the Holy Spirit that gave you a boost? (laughs)”

According to America Magazine, the pope responded that: “The grace of the Holy Spirit certainly exists. I have always defended the doctrine. And it is curious that in the law on homosexual marriage…. It is an incongruity to speak of homosexual marriage. But what we have to have is a law of civil union (ley de convivencia civil), so they have the right to be legally covered.”

The last sentence was omitted when Alazraki's interview was broadcast in 2019.

It is not clear when the pope said “I stood up for that,” or if that sentence references the remark on civil unions. The magazine also did not indicate how it had obtained the footage omitted from the publicly aired interview.

A CNA analysis found that comments from the pope presented in the documentary before his remarks on civil unions were heavily edited, with various phrases from the 2019 interview strung together as presented as a cohesive whole.

The translation of the pope’s phrase “convivencia civil” has also been disputed.

Some commenters have suggested that the pope’s Spanish phrase is not properly translated as “civil union.” However, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, a long-time theological advisor to Pope Francis, posted on Facebook October 21 that civil unions is the correct translation. That post has since been deleted.

The Vatican press office has not responded to requests for clarification about the pope’s comments.

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