The Vatican says Pope Francis’ comments on same-sex civil unions were taken “out of context” in a recent documentary that spliced together parts of an old interview the pontiff gave last year.
The Vatican secretariat of state issued guidance to ambassadors to explain the uproar that Francis’ comments created among the church hierarchy following the Oct. 21 premiere of the documentary Francesco at the Rome Film Festival. The Vatican nuncio to Mexico, Archbishop Franco Coppola posted the unsigned guidance on his Facebook page on Sunday.
“More than a year ago, during an interview, Pope Francis answered two different questions at two different times that, in the aforementioned documentary, were edited and published as a single answer without proper contextualization, which has led to confusion,” the Vatican guidance reads.
Although director Evgeny Afineevsky told journalists he had two on-camera interviews with the pope, leading them to believe the comments were knew, the footage — which had never been broadcast before — actually came from a May 2019 interview, filmed with Vatican cameras, for Mexican broadcaster Televisa, reports the Associated Press.
In Francesco, Afineevsky recounts the story of Andrea Rubera, a married gay Catholic who wrote Francis asking for his advice about bringing into the church his three young children with his husband.
Rubera recounts how Francis urged him to approach his parish transparently and bring the children up in the faith, which he did. Afterwards, the film cuts to Francis’ comments, splicing two separate parts of the Televisa interview into one statement, without any context.
“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis says in the spliced clip. “You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”
The pope’s statements appearing to indicate support for same-sex civil unions made headlines due to Catholic doctrine, which states that the church’s support for gay people “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”
Church doctrine also states that even though gay people are to be treated with dignity and respect, but states that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and opposes same-sex adoption.
The Vatican confirmed that Francis’ comments in the original Televisa interview were referring to his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010, when he clashed with the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner over the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage.
At the time, Francis had privately floated the idea of civil unions as a way to provide legal protections for same-sex couples even while vehemently opposing marriage equality and locking horns with Kirchner in public.
The footage of the Televisa interview is online, and includes an awkward cut right after Francis talks about the “incongruity” of same-sex marriage.
The Vatican hasn’t confirmed or denied reports by sources in Mexico claiming that the Vatican cut the quote in which he appears to be sympathetic to same-sex unions from the footage it provided to Televisa after the interview.
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