“Some statements, contained in the documentary ‘Francisco’ by screenwriter Evgeny Afineevsky, have provoked, in recent days, various reactions and interpretations. Therefore, some helpful points are offered, with the desire to present an adequate understanding of the Holy Father's words,” Archbishop Franco Coppolo, apostolic nuncio, posted on Facebook Oct. 30.
The interview question that prompted remark on civil unions was “inherent in a local law from ten years ago in Argentina on ‘equal marriages of same-sex couples’ and the opposition of the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires in this regard. In this regard, Pope Francis has affirmed that ‘it is an incongruity to speak of homosexual marriage,’ adding that, in the same context, he had spoken of the right of these people to have certain legal coverage: ‘what we have to do is a law of civil union; they have the right to be covered legally. I defended that,’” Coppolo posted on Facebook.
“The Holy Father had expressed himself thus during an interview in 2014: ‘Marriage is between a man and a woman. The secular States want to justify civil unions to regulate various situations of coexistence, moved by the demand to regulate economic aspects between people, such as ensuring health care. These are coexistence pacts of a different nature, of which I would not be able to give a list of the different forms. It is necessary to see the various cases and evaluate them in their variety,” the post added.
In other words, is it what we call it or what it is? If it is merely a dispute over terms, then Christianity is in big trouble. For if the goal is simply to protect the use of marriage only for a man and a woman, then we have already lost the battle entirely. Civil unions are marriage by another another when laws describe that relationship, give it legal and protected status, and accord to it the same or similar rights and privileges according to the married.
How shall we are if we are content to fight over a word and nothing more! Pope Francis seems to imply that it is only about the word marriage, not about the legalization of same sex or multiple partner relationships with the sanction of the government but without the term itself. But surely we are contending for more than a word! The issue for Christians is not marriage for a man and a woman and civil unions for everyone else but the whole acceptance and equivalence of same sex unions as marriage -- historically, culturally, sociologically, and theologically defined. We are not satisfied by being tossed a bone that leaves the word protected but accords the legal status to everyone else under another term. We are advocating for marriage as it has always been understood -- outside of as well as by Christianity.
Then-Cardinal Bergoglio long ago revealed his hand when he said he “always recognized that, without calling it ‘marriage,’ in fact there are very close unions between people of the same sex, which do not in themselves imply sexual relations, but a very intense and stable alliance.” The archbishop speaking for the Pope explains that “For him, the expression ‘marriage’ has a precise meaning and only applies to a stable union between a man and a woman open to communicating life…there is a word, ‘marriage,’ that only applies to that reality. Any other similar union requires another name.” But is that all there is to it?
Civil unions are not simply for those same sex couples who cannot be married (where restrictions still exist). In fact, such a law has been and continues to be used by those who define marriage as an antiquated or inadvisable institution for this modern age but who seek certain legal protections for their unions. This is as much a problem as it is for same sex civil unions. The assault is not against a term but an institution, created and established by God and recognized universally even apart from Judeo-Christian tradition. What we are advocating for and protecting is nothing less than the full picture and image of this union, that reflects the union betwixt Christ and His Church. It is a fight, that is true, but not simply about the term marriage. If the Pope does not get it, the rest of us do.