Sunday September 19th, 2021 12:56AM

Plot thickens over origins of pope's civil union endorsement

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Questions swirled Thursday about the origins of Pope Francis’ bombshell comments endorsing same-sex civil unions, with all evidence suggesting he made them in a 2019 interview that was never broadcast in its entirety.

The Vatican refused to comment on whether it cut the remarks from its own broadcast or if the Mexican broadcaster that conducted the interview did. And it didn’t respond to questions about why it allowed the comments to be aired now in the documentary “Francesco,” which premiered Wednesday.

In the movie, which was shown at the Rome Film Festival, Francis said gay people have the right to be in a family since they are “children of God.”

“You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this,” the pope said. “What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

Those comments caused a firestorm, thrilling progressives and alarming conservatives, given official Vatican teaching prohibits any such endorsement of homosexual unions.

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis had endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favor of legal protections for civil unions as pope, and no pontiff before him had, either.

One of Francis' top communications advisers, the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, insisted the pope's comments were old news, saying they were made during a May 2019 interview with Mexican broadcaster Televisa.

“There's nothing new because it's a part of that interview," Spadaro told The Associated Press as he exited the premiere. “It seems strange that you don't remember."

But Televisa didn't air those comments when it broadcast the interview — nor did the Vatican when it put out its recordings of it. The broadcaster has not commented on the intrigue.

The Vatican frequently edits the pope in official transcripts and videos, especially when he speaks on sensitive issues. Yet some version of the footage was apparently available in the Vatican archives, which were opened to filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky.

Televisa has not confirmed that the comments were made during its interview, in which the pope insisted that “I always defended doctrine," in opposing same-sex marriage in Argentina. The Televisa interview cuts there.

The documentary doesn't include that quote, but instead used a previously unpublished one about his support for a law governing same-sex civil unions, or “a law of civil cohabitation" as he called it. But the scene of the documentary is identical to the Televisa interview, including the yellow background, a chair in the corner and slightly off-center placement of the chain of Francis' pectoral cross.

The official 2019 Vatican News transcript of that interview, as well as the official Vatican edit, contains no comment on the need for legal protections for civil unions.

Further muddying the waters is the fact that Afineevsky, when pressed by reporters late Wednesday, said the pope made the comments to him directly, through a translator, but declined to say when.

When The Associated Press interviewed Afineevsky on Oct. 14, the director was asked if he realized at the time that Francis’ comments were going to grab headlines.

Afineevsky dodged the question about the origin of the quote and seemed to not appreciate its significance. But he said that he hoped journalists would take more away from the film.

“If journalists will be focusing on this movie only on that, then it will be a pity," he said. "But I think that’s one of the issues that our world needs to understand, that we’re all equal.”

The head of the Vatican communications branch, Paolo Ruffini, refused to speak to reporters who attended an award ceremony Thursday in the Vatican gardens for Afineevsky, and the director himself kept his distance.

The Catholic Church teaches that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” A 2003 document from the Vatican’s doctrine office stated the church’s respect for gay people “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

Doing so, the Vatican reasoned, would not only condone “deviant behavior,” but create an equivalence to marriage, which the church holds is an indissoluble union between man and woman.

Afineevsky, who is gay, had expressed surprise after the premiere that the pope’s comments had created such a stir, saying Francis wasn’t trying to change doctrine but was merely expressing his belief gay people should enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals.

On Thursday, he declined to take any further questions and sought to put attention on the main issues dealt with in the film: climate change, refugees and poverty.

“I am so proud that finally ‘Francesco’ is on its way to the road to change hearts and minds," he said at the prize ceremony in the Vatican gardens. “Finally, I am happy that I can bring voices from the Rohingya refugees, refugees from Syria, the voices of victims of sexual abuse, voices from different points from different corners of the world.”


Associated Press journalist Trisha Thomas contributed.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP World News, AP Entertainment
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Plot thickens over origins of pope's civil union endorsement
Question are swirling about the origins of Pope Francis’ bombshell comments endorsing same-sex civil unions
9:04AM ( 6 minutes ago )
Study: TV industry falls short of off-camera inclusivity
When Zendaya won last month’s Emmy Award for top drama series actress, her triumph seemed to underscore the TV industry’s progress toward inclusivity
9:02AM ( 8 minutes ago )
Bank robber flees with loads of cash in ex-Soviet Georgia
Police in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia are looking for a man who held over 40 people hostage at a bank for hours before releasing them and escaping with the money given to him by authorities
8:51AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Thailand cancels emergency decree in bid to calm protests
Thailand’s government has canceled a state of emergency it had declared last week for Bangkok in a gesture offered by the embattled prime minister to cool student-led protests seeking democracy reforms
8:30AM ( 40 minutes ago )
Nagorno-Karabakh fighting raises threat of escalation
Heavy fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh is continuing with Armenia and Azerbaijan trading blame for new attacks
7:59AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Oxford vaccine trial continues amid death report
The University of Oxford says the late-stage trial of its COVID-19 vaccine in Brazil will continue following reports of a participant’s death
7:20AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP World News
Viewers' Guide: After chaotic debate, Trump, Biden try again
After meeting in perhaps the most cacophonous debate in modern history, President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, will take the stage Thursday to try again
6:26AM ( 2 hours ago )
Mixed Philippine reaction on pope nod on gay civil unions
Pope Francis’ endorsement of same-sex civil unions has drawn mixed reactions in the Philippines, Asia’s bastion of Catholicism, with a retired bishop saying he was scandalized by it and an LGBT group welcoming the pontiff’s remarks
5:23AM ( 3 hours ago )
Bad Bunny, Daddy Yankee top Billboard Latin Music Awards
Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee triumphed at the Billboard Latin Music Awards Wednesday, claiming seven trophies apiece at the pandemic-delayed show
5:22AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
Bank robber flees with loads of cash in ex-Soviet Georgia
Police in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia are looking for a man who held over 40 people hostage at a bank for hours before releasing them and escaping with the money given to him by authorities
8:51AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Spanish lawmakers squash far-right's attempt to oust PM
Spanish lawmakers on Thursday overwhelmingly rejected a no-confidence motion called by the far-right party Vox against Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his left-wing coalition over their handling of the coronavirus pandemic
8:50AM ( 19 minutes ago )
Union Pacific 3Q profit drops 12% but volume surges
Union Pacific’s third-quarter profit declined 12%, but the volume of shipments it handled surged as the economy rebounded from the worst of the virus-related shutdowns earlier this year
8:48AM ( 22 minutes ago )
The Latest: Biden won't rule out studying court packing
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden won’t rule out studying the addition of members to the Supreme Court as part of a commission he plans to name to look at court reforms if he’s elected
8:42AM ( 28 minutes ago )
US jobless claims drop to 787,000, but layoffs remain high
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 787,000, a sign that job losses may have eased slightly but are still running at historically high levels
8:41AM ( 29 minutes ago )