Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.

Speaking Out of Turn

11-08-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

The Vatican issued clarification on the Documentary Francesco in which Pope Francis’ apparent comments seemed at odds with what he previously had said.

“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 the proper contextualization, which has led to confusion," the Vatican statement says.

Regarding the Pope's comments in the film that "what we need is a civil union law," the Vatican's clarification says that the Pope was speaking about his opposition to a same-sex marriage law in Argentina ten years ago when the Pope was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

In that context, the Vatican asserts that the Pope as Archbishop "had spoken about the rights of these people to have certain legal protection," but not about same-sex marriage.

"It is clear that Pope Francis was referring to certain provisions made by states, and certainly not to the doctrine of the Church, which he has reaffirmed numerous times over the years," the letter explains. In the film the Pope also says: "Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They're children of God and have a right to a family," which was interpreted by some to mean that the Pope was in favor of same-sex couples forming families. The letter states that the Pope was speaking about the fact that "a son or daughter with a homosexual orientation should never be discriminated against within the family."

As is too often the case in a world where everything is video recorded, those same recordings can be edited to make a person sound like they are saying something they did not say. This is why previous Popes spoke only from written texts to avoid the snare Pope Francis got caught in.

Immediately after the Documentary was released the Washington Post editorial section wrote that Courts should take into consideration not just official Catholic teaching but the words of Pope Francis in this film. They were referring to the current case before the US Supreme Court between Catholic Social Services and the City of Philadelphia which is over the issue of placing foster/ adoptive children with same-sex couples (which Catholic Social Services declined to do). Unfortunately, when a Pope speaks off the cuff or in interviews, he opens himself up to be misinterpreted or misrepresented. As we see from this example there are those who will use his words against the Church when convenient.

Speaking from personal experience, video recordings are a blessing and a curse. It is great to have when someone misquotes you and you can go back and play the tape. But it is also easy to misspeak or say something that comes off the wrong way or is taken out of context. This is partially why politicians can say a whole lot without saying anything. It is an art form that clearly Pope Francis has not mastered! (Nor should he.)


Fr John B.

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