Greetings, dear friends! I have a friend who sent me the video of the Pope's full documentary, Francesco, yesterday, but the video was removed shortly thereafter. It apparently will be made available soon. I have already seen the video clip, recorded in 2019, in which the Pope recommends the establishment of a “ley de convivencia civil” for certain persons. This clip was either removed from the original footage of the video, or was a clip from another video for the documentary. Various authors suggest that Pope Francis did not approve of this video clip in the final product. Whatever the case may be, this much is true: in the video clip he uses the term, “ley de convivencia civil”, as he is discussing, not heterosexual persons, but homosexual persons. This clip began to circulate on the internet this past Wednesday. Fortunately, I was able to read the transcript of the documentary yesterday evening (Thursday), meaning more than just the video clip, but here the Pope’s call for a “ley de convivencia civil” for homosexual persons was, once again, removed from the original transcript of the documentary. Nevertheless, after reading the transcript, I can say that I have a fuller understanding of the meaning of the Pope’s message in the video clip, including his reason for saying what he said. I believe he offers a good message for people who can open their hearts to hear him.
In my original statements I never accused Pope Francis of advocating for homosexual marriage or homosexual acts. I never believed he did that or would do that. Nevertheless, as a Roman Catholic, as a Dominican friar and as a priest, I was certainly concerned about what he fully meant by the “convivencia civil” or civil union. I was even more concerned that people could possibly misunderstand him, become discouraged and fall from the belief and practice of Catholic faith and morals. Should I have been concerned? Certainly! I am in the business of shepherding people to Christ. Having said that, I hereby retract my former statement that Pope Francis was responsible for causing the scandal in the Church. I repent for that statement. May God have mercy upon me. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. At the same time, I believe that there are people in secular society, in the Church and in the media searching for occasions to create scandal among the people. I offer you this article as a means to help shepherd, you, the people of God, beyond the misunderstanding, beyond the discouragement and beyond the failure to trust in the Successor of St. Peter, the Soveign Pontiff and Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis.
TRANSCRIPT OF VIDEO CLIP
“Las personas homosexuales tienen el derecho estar en una familia. Son hijos de Dios. Tienen derecho a una familia. No se puede echar de la familia a nadie, ni hacerle la vida imposible por eso. Lo que tenemos que hacer es una ley de convivencia civil. Tienen derecho a estar cubiertos legalmente.” – Pope Francis
The documentary itself covers various subjects in a question-answer format. In this summary, I will limit myself to the relevant parts of the documentary that hopefully will help everyone understand the circumstances that may have led Pope Francis to say what he said in the video clip. In the documentary, the woman reporter asks Pope Francis questions about homosexual persons and the subject of homosexual marriage. He begins by saying that homosexual people, people who have a homosexual orientation, have a right to be members of a family. Indeed, they have a right to be in a family and their parents have a right to see them for who they are as human beings. They are children of God. The implication here is that Francis knows that there are parents and families in society who do not see their homosexual sons and daughters as children of God. On the contrary, they see them merely as garbage. As a result, they can discard them from their life, just because they are homosexual. They may or may not be living a homosexual life. The problem may be their homosexual orientation. This orientation alone may be the reason their parents and families discard them. Nevertheless, as their parents and families, they should never discard them as such. Consequently, Pope Francis suggests that homosexual persons are especially subject to unjust discrimination and suffering in society, including in their families. For this reason, he recommends the establishment of a “ley de convivencia civil” that would legally cover homosexual persons to protect them from such injustices in their family and society. This would give them legal status to live together civilly, not as married couples, but as persons living together legally as brothers or sisters under the protection of civil law. In this sense, such a “ley de convivencia civil” would be a civil union that would help them safeguard and support each other financially and medically as brothers or sisters. At the same time, the Pope also says that their right to form such a family, by civil union, does not mean that they would have a right to practice homosexual acts. On the contrary, he proclaims that this right is not an approval for such acts. Finally, he says that he has defended the Church’s teaching on Marriage in which a man and a woman alone have a right to marry one another, whether civilly or sacramentally. As such, Pope Francis is certainly against marriage for homosexual persons. On this basis, the relevant parts of the documentary that relate to homosexual persons reveal that the message of Pope Francis in the video clip is, first and foremost, concerned not about offering them an option for a homosexual marriage or a civil union in which they could practice their homosexuality, but about protecting them civilly from unjust discrimination from their family members and from society who have oftentimes acted gravely immoral by discarding them as garbage. In my understanding, these are the circumstances in which the Pope made his comments.
UNDERSTANDING THE “LEY DE CONVIVENCIA CIVIL”
There are people claiming that the Pope's use of the term, “ley de convivencia civil” in the documentary was incorrectly translated. The term he uses is "ley de convivencia civil". I speak Spanish fluently, have researched the term and have spoken to Latin American friends about this term. People are claiming that the term "civil union" is an incorrect translation of convivencia civil. However, my friends and I agree that translating convivencia civil as legal or civil union is a correct translation. It is not a literal translation, but it is a translation which is faithful to the meaning of the word. This term, convivencia civil, means "legal cohabitation" or "legally living together" which would certainly include civil union, but none of this suggests sexual relations. Accordingly, convivencia civil refers to a legal or civil union. For this reason, I believe that civil union, as the Pope uses it, is not an incorrect translation. It is a legal concept and status that would offer homosexual couples, and others, legal protection. That is what the Pope is concerned about. He wants to protect them as sons and daughters of God from being discarded as garbage by others. On this basis, this convivencia civil, or civil union, neither involves marriage nor sexual relations, but merely a legal status for protection against unjust discrimination.
In these last days, after I learned about the documentary, Francesco, I read articles in which some archbishops from the United States and Latin America offer their guidance in helping the people of God, including myself, to understand the Pope’s use of this term, convivencia civil, to mean a civil union. What they said, confirmed this meaning of the term. Here I will briefly offer you their thoughts on the subject.
In an article published by the Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore J. Cordileone, he says that last January during his ad limina visit in Rome with Pope Francis and the Bishops of his region, they discussed the subject of the “ley de convivencia civil”. In the discussion, they referred to this ley de convivencia civil as a civil union. In doing so, they distinguished it from marriage. In fact, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez from Argentina, a theological advisor to Pope Francis for many years, agrees that the Pope understands the phrase, convivencia civil, to substantially mean civil union. According to him, this is not a mistranslation. The Pope, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, used the term in this manner. Similarly, Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans concurs that Pope Francis, both during his papacy and as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, has used the term, civil union, many times in referring to this legal relationship granted to people by the government. According to Archbishop Aymond, Pope Francis understands the idea of a civil union as a civil rights question. In this sense, he understands that these people should receive certain benefits and protections legally in a civil union on the basis of these rights. Accordingly, in such a union, the persons living together legally, as brothers or sisters, would receive mutual financial and medical benefits under civil law, but under no circumstances would they be considered married or have the right to practice intercourse. Furthermore, Archbishop Cordileone says that this form of civil union should be made available to both heterosexual and homosexual persons, including a biological brother and sister, and other family members, such as an aunt and a niece, if the circumstances call for this. They would all have access to receive mutual benefits under civil law. On this basis, for Cordileone, this civil union would not just be for homosexual persons, but for all human beings, including family members and friends, who are not married.
From what has been said in this article, I hope and pray you understand that Pope Francis was certainly not advocating for legalizing homosexual marriages nor was he suggesting, in the least, that homosexual acts could be licitly practiced by homosexual persons. That is not what he was saying. He never said that. In fact, he was not suggesting at all that the form of civil union, he supports, would involve homosexual marriage or intercourse. It would not.
In conclusion, I offer you these thoughts as reminders to help you form and maintain a true judgment about the message from Pope Francis in the documentary. First of all, in the documentary, Francesco, Pope Francis is not changing nor can he change the received Catholic Teaching on the nature and meaning of the sacrament of holy matrimony. Nor can he change the nature and meaning of civil marriage. This is unchangeable. For in the beginning, after God Himself established Marriage as a natural sacrament, a sacrament of nature, involving the complementarity of man and a woman, He later raised this marriage to a sacrament of grace for them. In doing so, He revealed the three goods of marriage: the indissolubility of the marriage bond, the faithful or chaste love and the openness to the generation of human life. In Catholic Teaching, these goods can only be pursued and fulfilled virtuously through the complementarity of a man and a woman in marriage.
Furthermore, Pope Francis is not arguing theologically for these civil unions from the chair of St. Peter on the basis of the revealed Catholic deposit of faith and morals, as mediated in Scripture and Tradition and as safeguarded by the Magisterium. As such, he is certainly not formally defining or offering any doctrine here for Catholics to believe theologically or morally. In fact, I would argue that he is primarily addressing the civil authorities, not the Church. In doing so, I believe he is acting more as a citizen of the state, a citizen of good will, than as the Sovereign Pontiff of the Roman Church. The manner in which he offers his thoughts on this subject in a secular documentary indicate that he is not acting officially and formally as the Roman Pontiff. He is not formally pronouncing a doctrine or dogma on faith or morals for Catholics to believe and profess. He is merely calling for the legal protections of peoples through a procedure in civil law. There will be people who will claim that he is departing from the Tradition, or at least moving the Tradition in a manner unhelpful to these people and the Church. My response to this is that he is doing nothing more, nothing less, than helping them support themselves financially, materially and medically by advocating for the convivencia civil. This would certainly be a means or basis for leading them to salvation in Christ. Once again, in the Pope's understanding, this civil union neither involves marriage nor sexual relations.
Finally, in this documentary, the Pope is not redefining the morality or moral nature of homosexual acts as morally good. He cannot. This would be contrary to Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium, including right reason and nature. On this basis, homosexual acts remain intrinsically evil. Consequently, they are neither perfective of human beings spiritually and morally nor are they ordainable to God as to their Last End. For this reason, please do not presume that the Pope's support of civil unions means that he is redefining Catholic teaching here. I repeat, he cannot. That is not his intention. Is there a danger of scandal that people may claim that Pope Francis is redefining doctrine? Yes! The scandal is already happening, not because of him, but because people are not understanding him fully or properly. As I have already said, I, myself, developed and humbly corrected my understanding of his message in the video clip, after reading the transcript. Thanks be to God. I hope and pray you open your heart to understand the true meaning of this message.
MESSAGE TO PARENTS OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS
If you have a son, a daughter or a friend who has a homosexual orientation, you are certainly called by God to love him virtuously as God wills. As all human beings, this person, your child, is the beneficiary of God's love. For God created him in His image for Himself that he would know Him, love Him and serve Him. As such, God loves your child perfectly. Indeed, He loves him as His child. After all, God is, by nature, the full or perfect actuality of infinite Love. As a result, His love for your homosexual son, daughter or friend can neither increase nor decrease nor cease. He remains Himself forever as perfect Love. Accordingly, God is not a changeable creature in potency to full perfection nor is He subject to corruption. In this sense, He does not mature in His love for your child nor can He fail to love your child. On the contrary, He is the uncreated unchangeable God who is Love. On this basis, do not yield to the temptation or fallacy that God either does not love your son, daughter or friend at all or loves him only imperfectly, because of his homosexual orientation. God certainly loves him. Moreover, he does not have to earn God's love either. God loves him freely. He loves him as His beloved child. On this basis, the homosexual orientation of your son, your daughter or friend can neither change nor nullify this truth about God's love for him.
At the same time, in Catholic Teaching, the homosexual orientation is not natural in the human being. On the contrary, it is an interior disordered movement or inclination of the concupiscible appetite that conditions and inclines a person intellectually and emotionolly to an improper object through his rational appetite. This inner movement precedes the act of the rational appetite, the will. Consequently, the Church does not call this orientation a moral evil or sin per se, but a disordered orientation, inasmuch as it inclines a person to an evil moral object, an object contrary to right reason, nature and revelation. According to Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium, under no circumstances may a human being act on such an orientation through his will. For he would be sinning against God, possibly mortally, under certain conditions. In this sense, a person was not created by God to be a homosexual. He did not receive this interior homosexual orientation from God in creation. On the contrary, as the Church teaches, he incurred this orientation as a consequence of the original sin of his first parents, Adam and Eve.
Moreover, for the Church, the nature of man, the nature of your son, his full sacred dignity as a human person, cannot be reduced merely or primarily to his homosexual orientation. He himself is not an orientation. He is much more than an orientation. He is a person created in God's divine image as a rational, free person called to holiness through good moral choices. In doing so, he opens himself for the grace of God to perfect his human nature. In this sense, he is not perfected as a moral agent through his orientation, but through the grace that informs his moral agency as a full person. This life of grace would involve practicing the theological and moral virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit, including chastity, as a faithful son of God. This alone will lead him to full healing in God interiorly and morally.
Additionally, this will involve the homosexual person, your child, learning to love God as his First or Greatest Love. For this reason, he is called to increase or mature in his love for God until he reaches full perfection in heaven. In this sense, he will neither reach heaven merely because God loves him perfectly nor will he reach heaven as an unrepentant sinner guilty of mortal or deadly sin. On the contrary, he will only reach heaven by remaining in the love of God. As Jesus says in the Gospel, “Remain in my love. If you remain in my love, you will bear much fruit.” Only in the love of God will your homosexual child prepare himself to die fruitfully. This preparation would also involve opening his heart to receive the mercy of God through repentance if he falls by acting on his orientation. As such, God's mercy will be available to him throughout his life, but this is not a license for him to act immorally. Loving God First will move him to prepare himself for heavenly beatitude through repentance and a holy life of virtue. This is true freedom, a freedom for happiness.
Finally, God calls the person who has a homosexual orientation, your son or daughter, to be perfected in His love by loving virtuously. This means first and foremost loving God as his First Love. Will he love God as his Greatest Good? What about himself? Will he love himself virtuously? Also, what about his neighbor? Will he love his neighbor according to holy virtue? Will he love him as himself, as God wills? Remember, not only does God love him and each and every human being, saint and sinner, but He also calls him to image His love. Is he willing to love as God loves? Is he willing to become a saint? If so, he will have to learn to love sacrificially as Jesus Himself according to holy chastity. I pray he is prepared to do this, but he will need the help of God.
In Christ with Blessed Mary,
Friar Mariano D. Veliz, O.P., Itinerant Preacher
Promoter of Preach My Psalter