Fr. De Celles’ statement in reference to the comments by Pope Francis on “Civil Unions”

On Wednesday, October 21, a new documentary video/film, “Francesco,” on the life and ministry of Pope Francis premiered as part of the Rome Film Festival. In that video, in Spanish with English subtitles, the Holy Father says:

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it…What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.” See the video here.

Yesterday, I sent you a Bishop Burbidge’s statement regarding these words (here).

In sum, despite press reports, nothing has changed. The Church, based on Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium, continues to teach that homosexual acts are sinful, same-sex attraction is a disorder, and homosexual civil unions cannot be approved of or promoted by the faithful.

Even so, we cannot ignore the Pope’s statement in this video. It has caused great confusion, and cannot be explained away as a mere misunderstanding.

While we must always show respect for the Office of Peter, and have a true filial love for Our Holy Father, that does not mean we must agree with everything he says, especially when shares a private opinion, as is the case here.

It should also be noted there is confusion over what the Holy Father is actually talking about. In particular, a key point of contention is the meaning of the Spanish “ley convivencia civil,” which the video translates as “civil union law” but which is more directly translated as “civil cohabitation law” (or “civil co-existence law)”. It is argued that in some countries a “civil union law” is very different than a “civil cohabitation law,” the former referring exclusively to homosexual couples and the latter referring to any two people living together, e.g., two sisters living together.

But it is not clear if the Holy Father is using this distinction. See these stories about that here and here.

The Archbishop of San Francisco, our friend Archbishop Cordileone, seems to address this in his response to the video:

“I would add that a civil union of this type (one which is not equated to marriage) should be as inclusive as possible, and not be restricted to two people of the same sex in a presumed sexual relationship. There is no reason, for example, why a brother and a sister, both of whom are unmarried and support each other, should not have access to these kinds of benefits.” See his full statement here.

And of course, there is confusion over what kind of teaching authority the Pope’s statement might have, whatever he intended to say. Clearly it has no magisterial teaching or binding authority, and is just restatement of a private opinion Pope Francis has long spoken of in a private, not papal, capacity.

In any case, regardless of how we might clarify the words, they have still caused great moral confusion, confusion that should have been readily anticipated. This is why, with all due respect to our Holy Father, in my humble opinion, the Pope’s public statement of his private opinion was grossly imprudent and possibly gravely scandalous.

LifeSiteNews reports that in response to the video Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (2012 to 2017), stated:

“I do not know the exact wording of the interview statement, which is ambiguous as so often. But the effect is fatal. The Catholic faithful are irritated, the enemies of the Church feel confirmed by the Vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom they reject as the Son of God….. The present statement of Pope Francis] is a purely private expression of opinion, which every Catholic can and should freely contradict.”

I encourage you to read the whole statement which you find near the end of the article here.

Our friend Cardinal Raymond Burke, the Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (2008 to 2014), has also issued a statement in which he says:

“Such declarations generate great bewilderment and cause confusion and error among Catholic faithful, inasmuch as they are contrary to the teaching of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and of the recent Magisterium…They cause wonderment and error regarding the Church’s teaching among people of good will, who sincerely wish to know what the Catholic Church teaches. They impose upon pastors of souls the duty of conscience to make fitting and necessary clarifications. “First of all, the context and the occasion of such declarations make them devoid of any magisterial weight. They are rightly interpreted as simple private opinions of the person who made them. These declarations do not bind, in any manner, the consciences of the faithful…”

I encourage you to read the entire statement here.

Finally, we must remember: Popes are not infallible in everything they think and say. Clearly, we have experienced this throughout our history. But the Holy Spirit still protects the Church, keeping it strong, faithful and holy, as it has rested on the Rock of Peter and handed down the teaching of Christ and His Apostles for 2000 years. Pray for our Holy Father, and for the Church he governs.

If you have any questions are concerns, please feel free to email me at