Action Alert!
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

The Pope sows more seeds of confusion

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 21, 2020

Once again Pope Francis is spreading confusion among the faithful. How many times must this happen before all good Catholics recognize that we have a serious problem in the Church, and its name is Francis?

Vision Book Cover Prints

“What we have to create is a civil-union law,” the Pope told an interviewer in a newly released video. The topic was same-sex marriage, and the Pontiff dutifully affirmed the Church’s clear teaching that marriage must involve a man and a woman. But then he undermined that teaching, encouraging people in the mistaken belief that the Church will eventually take another step to accommodate same-sex marriage.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” the Pope said, explaining his novel stand. Yes, but they do not have the right to redefine the family—which has always been the goal of the gay-rights movement.

In the interview the Pope essentially confirmed reports that in 2010, while serving as Archbishop of Bueno Aires, then-Cardinal Bergoglio had recommended civil unions as an alternative to legal recognition of same-sex marriage in Argentina. At the time the Vatican had taken a clear position in opposition to such proposals. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) explained in 2003—in a statement crafted by the future Pope Benedict XVI and approved by Pope John Paul II:

Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.

What did the civil-union proposals of that era seek to achieve? Homosexuals could already designate their partners as their heirs and their medical surrogates; they could co-sign legal documents. The only legal privileges denied to them were those that have been traditionally accorded only to married couples. So the CDF recognized the civil-union proposals as a threat to the unique legal status of marriage. In opposing that threat the CDF was not taking a stand on a particular political proposal, so much as it was upholding the unchanged and unchangeable teaching of the Church—and of all Judeo-Christian tradition—that the family based on marriage is the fundamental building-block of society and deserves the government’s support and protection.

Granted, the CDF statement was not issued ex cathedra. So conservative defenders of Pope Francis will no doubt continue their valiant efforts to explain how his statements can (after some strenuous mental gymnastics) be reconciled with Catholic doctrine. But is there any doubt that the Pontiff’s statement makes it more difficult to defend the traditional teaching? When Father James Martin says that this is “a major step forward in the Church’s support for LGBTQ people,” he implies that it is a step toward a certain goal. Millions of people, reading the headlines generated by this statement, will conclude that Church teaching is changing, and will continue to change until that goal is reached.

By the way, why did the Pope say that “we have to create” civil unions, when civil unions are already recognized in Italy, and most of the neighboring European countries have taken the next step and legalized same-sex marriage? Ten years ago, when he proposed civil unions as a compromise, we might have questioned his political acumen. Today the impact of the papal statement is considerably more damaging. He is, in effect, relinquishing any claim to territory that the opposing forces have already occupied—and thus creating new obstacles for any Catholics who seek to regain that territory in the future.

Surely Pope Francis knew, when he made this statement, what sort of reaction it would cause. Why did he make the statement, then? Again and again he has made statements which, if they do not flatly contradict Catholic doctrine, undoubtedly shake public confidence in the permanent teaching. It is increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that this Pope wants to cause confusion.

Cui bono? Each time the Church’s teaching is thrown into question by a new papal novelty, some loyal Catholics are shocked and dismayed, while others work feverishly to reconcile the latest statement with the enduring magisterium. And radical Catholics, who really do want to overturn established dogma, rub their hands gleefully and seize another opportunity.

As I observed in Lost Shepherd, in the public statements of Pope Francis, confusion isn’t a bug; it’s a feature.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 9 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: [email protected] - Oct. 24, 2020 1:56 AM ET USA

    Frances confuses the faithful again. It should be clear to all that he does this on purpose. No one can be so blind as to think otherwise. His destructive behavior and comments have a purpose and it is clear that it is to support the homosexual activists in hierarchy. Notice we still don't have the Mccarrick report. He is slowly pushing to overturn doctrine. He is a wolf in sheep's clothing. He should beware of trying to breakup Christ's Church. St Michael protect us.

  • Posted by: grateful1 - Oct. 23, 2020 8:18 PM ET USA

    You've been sounding the same theme, Phil, for years now--namely, that "It is increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that this Pope WANTS to cause confusion." Like most faithful Catholics, I reached that conclusion long ago. But honesty & common sense have since forced me to recognize that for Francis, "confusion" over Church teaching is but a means to an end: the use of the Church's wealth & influence to spread his synthetic socialist "spirituality." The only question is, "Now what?"

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Oct. 23, 2020 7:35 PM ET USA

    Indeed, more and more Bergoglio babble that confuses the faithful. Any pope, as a human being, is likely to say something or do something that may scandalize some of the faithful, but only rarely. The problem with Pope Francis is that his babble is not rare, but a frequent part of his words and actions.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Oct. 23, 2020 4:44 PM ET USA

    More and more I look at Church and secular leaders everywhere and ask the obvious question, "are you corrupt or merely incompetent?"

  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - Oct. 21, 2020 9:29 PM ET USA

    Here's a link to a Spanish-language article from two years ago in which he says basically the same thing: https://es.aleteia.org/2018/04/24/papa-francisco-llamemos-a-las-uniones-del-mismo-sexo-union-civil/ Why it wasn't picked up then isn't clear to me, but this is very problematic. I only hope that Benedict will correct him.

  • Posted by: Cory - Oct. 21, 2020 8:52 PM ET USA

    Seeds of confusion? No, no, no. Seeds of evil. But I suppose you are right, the devil is very good at confusing people.

  • Posted by: feedback - Oct. 21, 2020 7:51 PM ET USA

    Both the sandy foundation underneath, and the stormy cloud above same-sex "unions" is the unconditional unacceptability of homosexual acts. It is the 800 ton gorilla that will never become "part of the family."

  • Posted by: john.nahrgang1529 - Oct. 21, 2020 6:25 PM ET USA

    Wow... yup Father, that certainly sounds like neo-Hegelianism to me.

  • Posted by: FrHughM - Oct. 21, 2020 4:47 PM ET USA

    It's part of his neo-Hegelian philosophy to contradict, to "make a mess" to push things forward. He contributed to the below 2018 article on his intellectual formation which says: “The Church, in Bergoglio’s emerging vision, was called to hold together what seemed to be logically irreconcilable views. Catholicism was called to find a way of living with apparently contradictory poles in tension, without either of them being destroyed.” https://tinyurl.com/yxgjkd22