Questions emerge regarding Pope Francis’ statement on same-sex civil unions

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 09:28 am (CNA).- Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, director of the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, said on Wednesday evening that an expression of support for same-sex civil unions from Pope Francis is “nothing new” and does not signify a change of Catholic doctrine. But the priest’s remarks have raised some question about the origin of comments from Pope Francis on civil unions, which were featured in the newly-released documentary “Francesco.”

In a video released by Tv2000, a media apostolate of the  Italian bishops’ conference, Spadaro said that “the director of the film ‘Francesco’ compiles a series of interviews that have been conducted with Pope Francis over time, giving a great summary of his pontificate and the value of his travels.”

“Among other things, there are various passages taken from an interview with Valentina Alazraki, a Mexican journalist, and within that interview Pope Francis speaks of a right to the legal protection of homosexual couples but without in any way affecting doctrine,” Spadaro said.

Tv2000 is not affiliated with the Vatican, and Spadaro is not a Vatican spokesman.

On Wednesday, the documentary’s director, Evgeny Afineevsky, told CNA and other journalists that the pope’s statement in support of legalizing same sex civil unions was made during an interview the director himself conducted with Pope Francis.

But the interview Pope Francis gave to Televisa’s Alazraki is shot in the same place, with the same lighting and the same appearance as the pope’s comments on civil unions that were aired in “Francesco,” suggesting that the remarks came from the Alazraki interview, and not an interview with Afineevsky.

Spadaro said Oct. 21 that “there is nothing new” in the pope’s remarks on civil unions.

“This is an interview given a long time ago that has already been received by the press,” Spadaro added.

And on Wednesday, the priest told the Associated Press that “there’s nothing new because it’s a part of that interview,” adding that “it seems strange that you don’t remember.”

While Alazraki’s interview was released by Televisa June 1, 2019, the pope’s comments on civil union legislation were not included in the published version, and had not previously been seen by the public in any context.

In fact, Alazraki told CNA she has no recollection of the pope making remarks about civil unions, although comparative footage suggests the remark almost certainly came from her interview.

It is not clear how unpublished footage from Alazraki’s interview, of which Spadaro seemed aware in his remarks on Wednesday, became available to Afineevsky during the production of his documentary.

On May 28, 2019, Vatican News, the official news outlet of the Vatican, published a preview of Alazraki’s interview, which also did not contain reference to the pope’s remarks on civil unions.

In a 2014 interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis spoke briefly about civil unions after he was asked about them. The pope distinguished between marriage, which is between a man and a woman, and other kinds of government-recognized relationships. Pope Francis did not weigh in on during the interview on a debate in Italy over same-sex civil unions, and a spokesman later clarified that he had no intention of doing so.

Pope Francis is also on record speaking about civil unions in the little known 2017 book “Pape François. Politique et société,” by French sociologist Dominique Wolton, who wrote the text after several interviews with Pope Francis.

In the English translation of the book, titled “A Future of Faith: The Path of Change in Politics and Society,” Wolton tells Pope Francis that “homosexuals aren’t necessarily favorable toward ‘marriage.’ Some prefer civil union (sic) It’s all complicated. Beyond the ideology of equality, there is also, in the word ‘marriage’, a search for acknowledgment.”

In the text, Pope Francis briefly responds: “But it isn’t a marriage, it is a civil union.”

Based on that reference, some reviews, including one published in America magazine, claimed that in the book, the Pope “repeats his opposition to gay marriage but accepts the civil union of people of the same sex.”

Journalists from CNA and other media outlets have asked the Vatican press office for clarification on the source of the pope’s interview, but have not yet received a response.


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