Comments recently opined by Pope Francis regarding same-sex unions have fueled a firestorm of response. Having received a deluge of questions from parishioners and priests who trying to make sense of what he said in only the first 24 hours, I humbly offer these clarifying points.
- Church teaching has not been changed; marriage remains a sacred partnership of love and life between a man and woman.
- Church teaching has not been changed regarding the inherent dignity within all people; the imitation of Christ, which is the law of love, remains the standard we are to practice toward everyone.
- The Pope consistently has been strong in his defense of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
- The Pope consistently has been strong in reasserting that people with same-sex attractions be treated and accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.
A few additional clarifications:
a) He was not speaking as the Pope exercising the full might of magisterial authority as the Successor of Saint Peter. Rather, he was voicing his own personal opinions about a political matter as an individual.
b) In our social media age that immediately and universally broadcasts personal opinions, the pope’s frequent opinion sharing as an individual on a host of complex political issues easily causes confusion among Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
c) I find it imprudent and intemperate when non-expert opinions are voiced by leaders regarding complex political issues. Of crucial note, the Pope is not a civil lawyer and, in my view, best to refrain from opining as in individual about civil unions and legality of marriages except to reiterate authoritative Church teaching about God’s plan for married love and the family.
d) The recognition of same-sex civil unions is an important step toward redefining civil marriage. This was the remarkably successful p0litical strategy in our country vigorously pursued by those lobbying to redefine marriage. This also is the leading tactic by people trying to force their political will upon the Catholic Church’s teaching about the truth of marriage.