In recent days, there has been a great deal of media coverage related to unofficial comments Pope Francis made regarding civil unions in the new documentary, Francesco. As we await a possible response from the Vatican which could share context surrounding his comments, there are a few things which can be said.
Pope Francis has consistently, and throughout his ministry, reached out to engage those in our world who are marginalized and/or on the periphery. He has embraced those who feel unloved, and extended an invitation for an encounter with the love and mercy of Jesus. So, too, must we see the presence of God in all of our brothers and sisters, honoring the dignity of the human person. Those in our families who are attracted to members of the same sex must always be treated with love, respect and compassion, not ostracized or disowned.
Although I have not viewed the documentary film, Francesco, many published reports have concluded that Pope Francis’ unscripted comments have signaled his support for “civil unions.” While the comments made are open to interpretation, they do not change the Church’s teaching on the nature of marriage. Pope Francis has consistently taught that marriage is exclusively defined as the life-long covenant between one man and one woman.
In Pope Francis’ teaching on love in the family, Amoris Laetitia, he wrote the following: “the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life. We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society” (#52).
It is important to make the distinction between comments made in a video interview, and those which come from the papal teaching office. As confusing as they might be, the recent comments of the pope should be considered alongside those things the Holy Father has said in the past as well as prior official papal and Magisterial teachings, which are very clear regarding the Sacrament of Marriage.