VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican says comments by Pope Francis on civil union laws in a documentary last month were taken out of context and did not signal a change in Church doctrine on homosexuals or support for same-sex marriage.
The documentary, “Francesco”, which premiered at the Rome film festival on Oct. 21, made headlines for a comment in which the pope says that homosexuals have a right to be in a family and that civil union laws covering homosexuals are needed.
The pope’s comments as portrayed prompted praise from liberals and calls for urgent clarification from conservatives.
Last week, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State quietly sent an “explanatory note” to its ambassadors, who sent it to bishops.
The note was first reported by papal biographer Austen Ivereigh. A Vatican source confirmed it on Monday and the Vatican’s ambassador to Mexico posted it on his Facebook page.
It says that two separate quotes in response to separate questions were spliced to appear as one, deleting the intervening context and questions.
The documentary’s director, Russian-born American citizen Evgeny Afineevsky, told reporters he interviewed the pope but journalists later found the footage in a 2019 interview with Mexico’s Televisa. Some was not previously aired.
After the documentary premiered, Afineevsky refused to discuss the editing process. It was not immediately possible to contact him for comment on the Vatican note.
The note said that in the first quote, the pope was referring to the right of homosexuals to be accepted by their own families as children and siblings.
Some saw the comments as homosexuals having a right to form families.
The note said the documentary cut comments where the pope expressed opposition to opposed homosexual marriage and made clear he was referring to civil union laws, which some countries have enacted to regulate benefits such as health care.
A phrase where Francis said “it is an incongruence to speak of homosexual marriage” was cut.
“It is clear that Pope Francis was referring to certain state provisions and certainly not the doctrine of the Church, which he has reaffirmed numerous times over the years,” the note said.
The Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are and that homosexuals must be treated with respect.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella)