Rorate Caeli

First Anniversary
For the record: after another papal interview, another Holy See Press Office clarification

This item has been widely covered in mainstream sources, but we are posting the following for the full record of events.

The original pope quote from his interview to major Italian daily Corriere della Sera, published last week in celebration of the first anniversary of the papal election:

Many countries have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?

Holy Father: Marriage is between one man and one woman. The secular States want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of coexistence, spurred by the need to regulate economic aspects between persons as, for instance, to ensure healthcare. Each case must be looked at and evaluated in its diversity. [English translation: Zenit]

Is it possible that the Pope did not have homosexual civil unions in mind? We find it highly unlikely: first because his answer clearly provides two very different parts, marriage (which "is between one man and one woman"), and the rest, which include "different situations of coexistence" (actually, "cohabitation," that is the word used in Italian, and a closer English translation).

Second, because civil unions and homosexual "marriages" are far from unknown to the Pope. He was the primate of the Argentinian church when his country became the first in Latin America to approve the redefinition of civil marriage and many sources from Argentina (including, but not limited, to the ones who spoke to John Allen) have confirmed that he favored such unions as a compromise solution in the place of full "marriages".

This report makes sense because, as we reported at the time (note that this was in 2010, 3 years before the conclave, showing that we always had our eyes on what was going on in Argentina, and with Cardinal Bergoglio in particular):

The Bishops came very late into the game, mostly to display a façade of 'action' before the Holy See, and Catholics remained uninformed about their religious obligations until the very end. It would be wonderful if the Bishops of Argentina had been as forceful regarding this matter as they have been in preventing the Traditional Mass from being available in their dioceses.

This mess is mostly of their making. [Source]

Third, because the present provides even more context to the pope's quote, because such "homosexual civil unions" ("unioni gay") have been in the center of the Italian political debate on family for months. No wonder the defense by Matteo Renzi (at the time mayor of Florence and chairman of the Democratic Party of Italy, and now prime-minister) of homosexual civil unions was the center of the last major article by Mario Palmaro, posted by us in January. And no wonder that the Archbishop of Lucca, when questioned on the matter on Sunday, just let it be known that Christians have to "open up to diversity."

The clarification was issued by the English-language officer of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Rosica, on March 7. Let it remain clear that the application of the pope's words to homosexual civil unions was not denied:

“The Pope did not choose to enter into debates about the delicate matter of gay civil unions.”

“In his response to the interviewer, he emphasized the natural characteristic of marriage between one man and one woman, and on the other hand, he also spoke about the obligation of the state to fulfill its responsibilities towards its citizens.”

By giving this response “Pope Francis spoke in very general terms, and did not specifically refer to same-sex marriage as a civil union,” he explained.

“Pope Francis simply stated the issues and did not interfere with positions held by Episcopal Conferences in various countries dealing with the question of civil unions and same sex marriage,” the priest continued.

“We should not try to read more into the Pope’s words that what has been stated in very general terms.” [Source.]

Even the most favorable reading, therefore, means that the matter is left by the pope to the local episcopal conferences. Why that at best uncertainty, at worst tolerance, is a 180-degree turn from the permanent and unchanging position of the Holy See can be seen in the very recent pronouncements made by Popes who were quite comfortable with modern thinking, modern family problems, and therefore quite acquainted with the discussion, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who were nonetheless always clear and explicit on this matter:

For some time now the family institution has been under repeated attack. These attacks are all the more dangerous and insidious since they ignore the irreplaceable value of the family based on marriage. They have reached the point of proposing false alternatives to the family and of calling for legislative recognition of them. But when laws, which should be at the service of the family, a fundamental good for society, turn against it, they acquire alarming destructive power.

Thus, in some countries there is a desire to impose on society so-called "de facto unions", reinforced by a series of legal effects which erode the very meaning of the family institution. "De facto unions" are marked by instability and the lack of the irrevocable commitment which gives rise to rights and duties and respects the dignity of the man and woman. Instead, there is a desire to give juridical value to a will that is far removed from any form of definitive bond. With these premises how can we hope for truly responsible procreation which is not limited to giving life, but also includes that training and education which only the family can guarantee in all its dimensions? Arrangements of this sort ultimately put the meaning of human fatherhood, of fatherhood in the family, seriously at risk. This happens in various ways when families are not well established.

When the Church explains the truth about marriage and the family, she does not do so only on the basis of the data of Revelation, but also by taking into account the demands of the natural law, which are at the foundation of the true good of society and its members. In fact, it is important for children to be born and raised in a home where parents are united in a faithful covenant.

It is quite possible to imagine other forms of relationship and cohabitation between the sexes, but none of these, despite some people's contrary opinion, offers a real juridical alternative to matrimony, but rather a weakening of it. In the so-called "de facto unions", we see a more or less serious lack of mutual commitment, a paradoxical desire to maintain the autonomy of one's will within a relationship which should in fact be relational. What is missing in non-marital cohabitation is trusting openness to a future life together, which love must create and build and which it is the law's specific task to guarantee. In other words, it is precisely the law which is lacking, not in its extrinsic dimension as a mere set of norms, but in its most genuine anthropological dimension as a guarantee of human coexistence and its dignity.

Moreover, when "de facto unions" claim the right to adopt, they clearly show their disregard for the child's welfare and the minimum conditions he is owed for proper upbringing. Lastly, "de facto unions" between homosexuals are a deplorable distortion of what should be a communion of love and life between a man and a woman in a reciprocal gift open to life.
John Paul II
June 4, 1999

None of us, in fact, belongs exclusively to himself or herself: one and all are therefore called to take on in their inmost depths their own public responsibility.

Marriage as an institution is thus not an undue interference of society or of authority. The external imposition of form on the most private reality of life is instead an intrinsic requirement of the covenant of conjugal love and of the depths of the human person.

Today, the various forms of the erosion of marriage, such as free unions and "trial marriage", and even pseudo-marriages between people of the same sex, are instead an expression of anarchic freedom that are wrongly made to pass as true human liberation. This pseudo-freedom is based on a trivialization of the body, which inevitably entails the trivialization of the person. Its premise is that the human being can do to himself or herself whatever he or she likes: thus, the body becomes a secondary thing that can be manipulated, from the human point of view, and used as one likes. Licentiousness, which passes for the discovery of the body and its value, is actually a dualism that makes the body despicable, placing it, so to speak, outside the person's authentic being and dignity.

When new forms of legislation are created which relativize marriage, the renouncement of the definitive bond obtains, as it were, also a juridical seal.

In this case, deciding for those who are already finding it far from easy becomes even more difficult. Then there is in addition, for the other type of couple, the relativization of the difference between the sexes.

The union of a man and a woman is being put on a par with the pairing of two people of the same sex, and tacitly confirms those fallacious theories that remove from the human person all the importance of masculinity and femininity, as though it were a question of the purely biological factor.

Such theories hold that man - that is, his intellect and his desire - would decide autonomously what he is or what he is not. In this, corporeity is scorned, with the consequence that the human being, in seeking to be emancipated from his body - from the "biological sphere" - ends by destroying himself.

If we tell ourselves that the Church ought not to interfere in such matters, we cannot but answer: are we not concerned with the human being? Do not believers, by virtue of the great culture of their faith, have the right to make a pronouncement on all this? Is it not their - our - duty to raise our voices to defend the human being, that creature who, precisely in the inseparable unity of body and spirit, is the image of God?
Benedict XVI
Christmas Address to the Roman Curia
December 22, 2006
[Human] love is the privileged path that God chose to reveal himself to man and in this love he calls human beings to communion in the Trinitarian life.

This approach enables us also to overcome a private conception of love that is so widespread today. Authentic love is transformed into a light that guides the whole of life towards its fullness, generating a society in which human beings can live. The communion of life and love which is marriage thus emerges as an authentic good for society.

Today, the need to avoid confusing marriage with other types of unions based on weak love is especially urgent. It is only the rock of total, irrevocable love between a man and a woman that can serve as the foundation on which to build a society that will become a home for all mankind.

...there are mounting threats to the natural composition of the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, and attempts to relativize it by giving it the same status as other radically different forms of union. All this offends and helps to destabilize the family by concealing its specific nature and its unique social role.
Benedict XVI
Address to the Diplomatic Corps
January 8, 2007 law made by man can override the norm written by the Creator without society becoming dramatically wounded in what constitutes its basic foundation. To forget this would mean to weaken the family, penalizing the children and rendering the future of society precarious.

[Image source: That the bones you have crushed...]