Pope Francis' homosexuality comments heavily edited in documentary, Vatican has no comment on civil unions

Pope Francis' homosexuality comments heavily edited in documentary, Vatican has no comment on civil unions

Screenshot documentary "Francesco" with original subtitles.
Screenshot documentary "Francesco" with original subtitles.

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“Francesco,” a newly-released documentary on Pope Francis, contains comments from the pope on homosexuality and civil unions. Some of the remarks, however, are the result of editing distinct phrases from a papal interview and presenting them as a cohesive whole.

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, the comments actually appear to come from a 2019 interview of Pope Francis conducted by Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki.

The pope’s comments on civil unions have not been disputed by the Vatican despite multiple requests for clarity. The remarks were not contained in the published version of Alazraki’s interview, and have not been seen by the public except in “Francesco.”

On Wednesday, however, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of the influential journal La Civiltà Cattolica, told journalists that the pope’s remarks on civil unions are excerpted from the 2019 interview, and did not dispute the way in which they were presented in the documentary.

At the same time, a CNA analysis of the interview’s transcript shows that other papal comments on homosexuality featured in “Francesco” were compiled by heavy editing of the 2019 interview’s video footage.

“Francesco” presents Pope Francis saying the following, in remarks about his approach to pastoral care:

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

While the pope did say those words on camera, he did not say them in that order, or use those phrases in immediate proximity.

CNA has bolded the appearance of those words in an excerpted translation of the pope’s remarks during his 2019 interview:

“I was asked a question on a flight - after it made me mad, made me mad for how one news outlet transmitted it - about the familial integration of people with homosexual orientation, and I said, homosexual people have a right to be in the family, people with homosexual orientation have a right to be in the family and parents have the right to recognize that son as homosexual, that daughter as homosexual. Nobody should be thrown out of the family, or be made miserable because of it.”

“Another thing is, I said when you see some signs in the children and from there send them to -  I should have said a ‘professional,’ what came out was ‘psychiatrist.’ I meant to say a professional because sometimes there are signs in adolescence or pre-adolescence that they don’t know if they are homosexually oriented or if it is that the thymus gland didn’t atrophy in time. Who knows, a thousand things, no? So, a professional. The title of the daily paper: ‘The Pope sends homosexuals to the psychiatrist.’ It’s not true!”

“They asked me the same question another time and I repeated it, ‘They are children of God, they have a right to a family, and such.’ Another thing is - and I explained I was wrong with that word, but I meant to say this: When you notice something strange - ‘Ah, it’s strange.’ - No, it’s not strange. Something that is outside of the usual. That is, not to take a little word to annul the context. There, what I said is that they ‘have a right to a family.’ And that doesn’t mean to approve of homosexual acts, not at all.”

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After the presentation of those edited remarks, the pope is seen to say in “Francesco” that “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

While those remarks seem certainly to come from the Alazraki interview, Francesco director Evgeny Afineevsky has told reporters otherwise, and the section of the Alazraki interview in which they would have come was not included in the published version, and is not available to the public.

But in addition to their context, some have called their meaning into question, suggesting that a phrase used by the pope, “convivencia civil,” was mistranslated by “Francesco” as “civil unions” in the film’s subtitle, and actually suggests a different kind of legal recognition.

But on Wednesday Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, a theologian who has long been close to the pope, suggested that the pope’s phrase is substantially equivalent to the phrase “civil union.”

The archbishop posted on Facebook that before he became the pope, then Cardinal-Bergoglio “always recognized that, without calling it ‘marriage,’ in fact there are very close unions between people of the same sex, which do not in themselves imply sexual relations, but a very intense and stable alliance. They know each other thoroughly, they share the same roof for many years, they take care of each other, they sacrifice for each other. Then it may happen that they prefer that in an extreme case or illness they do not consult their relatives, but that person who knows their intentions in depth. And for the same reason they prefer that it be that person who inherits all their assets, etc. This can be contemplated in the law and is called ‘civil union’ [unión civil] or ‘law of civil coexistence’ [ley de convivencia civil], not marriage.” 

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