As someone who plans on graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Communication, it bothers when a misinterpreted and misquoted statement is promoted as fact by major media outlets in the United States. It bothers me even more when the Vatican Communications Office has not clarified an ambiguous statement made by the Holy Father of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis, throughout his pontificate, has pushed the envelope in doctrine for the Catholic Church and remained mum on follow-up questions regarding what he meant in these statements. Pope Francis would be in a good spot right now if he just knew how to communicate the teachings of the Catholic faith and avoid confusing the faithful.
This confusion came to light recently in a new Vatican documentary called “Francesco” that premiered worldwide last Wednesday. It intended to show the Pope in a positive light by reaching back to his days of traveling the world and blessing the oppressed. The film also spotlighted his caring for issues like climate change, refugees and social inequalities. All of these were forgotten quickly when the Pope spoke about homosexuals and stated in Spanish, “Ley de convivencia civil.” This statement translated directly in English means “giving them (homosexuals) legal protections.”
This is solid teaching because the Church teaches us that all humans have rights and should be protected.
However, major news outlets, like The New York Times, ran with this statement and misinterpreted the Holy Father.
“Pope Francis expressed support for same-sex civil unions in remarks revealed in a documentary film that premiered on Wednesday, a significant break from his predecessors that staked out new ground for the church in its recognition of gay people,” Jason Horowitz, the Rome bureau chief of The Times, wrote in an article.
Pope Francis never supported gay marriage in this documentary, but he, along with the communication team at the Vatican, have not clarified this.
This lack of clarity leads to factions in the Church, like conservative Cardinal Burke, having to uphold the teachings of the Church through clear statements.
Cardinal Burke said the Pope’s comments have no “magisterial weight.” He expressed concerns that personal opinions from the Pope, “generate great bewilderment and cause confusion and error among faithful Catholics.”
Again, confusion could be easily avoided by sticking with the Church’s teachings.
The Catechism is clear on the Church’s stance on marriage. According to the Catechism, Catechism 2335 states:
“Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in a different way. The union of man and woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator’s generosity and fecundity: Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. All human generations proceed from this union.”
The Church disapproves of homosexual marriage, but the Church always cares for homosexuals and desires them to be treated with compassion and lead to fulfill God’s will through chastity.
The Catechism expands on this teaching.
“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible,” it states. “This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
If the Pope could be clearer, the Church would be in a more holy and upright place. The papacy is a spot where the Church needs an unequivocal leader, and the Pope has not done this.
Another example came when Juan Carlos Cruz, a survivor of clerical abuse at the hands of the Latin American clergy, met with Pope Francis in May of 2018.
According to the El País newspaper, Pope Francis said to Mr. Cruz, who is gay, “Juan Carlos, that you are gay does not matter. God made you like this and loves you like this and I don’t care. The pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are.”
The Vatican communication department refused to answer questions on the Holy Father’s comments.
Journalism is a two-way street, and those in power need to be held accountable and fact checked. Unfortunately, the Vatican likes to dodge questions and use silence without the word transparent in their dictionary. This silence needs to be replaced with speaking out so the faithful can truly be confident in their leadership and lead others to Heaven through clear teachings.