Are Pope Francis’ words on Gays, Families, and Civil Unions teachings?

At Where Peter Is, Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein and Dr. Robert Fastiggi agree with Mike Lewis as follows: “Francis’s words here belong entirely to the prudential order. This is not about doctrinal issues. He is proposing what he thinks are sound pastoral and societal approaches towards family members and partners who happen to be homosexual.” Let’s consider if that is true.

[Updated: see the comment below by Dr. Fastiggi agreeing that some of what Francis said is “more than prudential”. My critique of what Mike Lewis said follows.]

Pope Francis: “Homosexuals have a right to be in the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out of the family or have a miserable life because of it. We need to have a law of civil union. They have a right to be legally covered. I defended this.”

They have a right… a right… no one should ever be treated this way. They have a right to legal protection. That is not entirely of the prudential order. Whether or not there are particular laws on the subject, and what in particular they allow or disallow is prudential, to some extent. But laws often regard fundamental human rights, like the right to freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and the right to be in a family, have your own family, and be treated with the great respect that all human persons deserve. These are fundamental human rights, which are often denied to gay (or trans) persons. And the Pope is teaching us on the moral law about those rights.

If it were entirely of the prudential order, then we would be free to disagree. We are not. This is a teaching of grave moral weight about fundamental human rights, which of course do not apply only to gay persons, but to everyone. It just happens that certain persons tend to be denied these rights, implicitly or explicitly, and so they need a particular law defending them.

I remind all papal commentators, those defending the Pope and those criticizing him, that we have a grave moral obligation to submit our minds, hearts, and whole persons to the Pope as our Teacher and Shepherd. When defending the Pope, we must always remember that submission. We are not greater than the Pope, a teacher defending a student. We are his students, and we must not speak as if he were under our judgment.

It’s also wrong to be quick to label a public expression of the Pope as mere opinion or as merely prudential, which then has the effect of undermining the teaching that he is expressing to the world and the Church.

Pope Francis is truly my teacher and shepherd. I wonder if all of his supporters and critics can say the same.

RLCJ

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5 Responses to Are Pope Francis’ words on Gays, Families, and Civil Unions teachings?

  1. It is important to keep in mind that the Holy Father is our teacher. As Pope St. Pius X teaches in his Catechism:

    “62 Q. How should every Catholic act towards the Pope?
    A. Every Catholic must acknowledge the Pope as Father, Pastor, and Universal Teacher, and be united with him in mind and heart.”

    “Every” Catholic. That includes Bishops.

    “52 Q. Why is the Roman Pontiff the Vicar of Jesus Christ?
    A. The Roman Pontiff is the Vicar of Jesus Christ because He represents Him on earth and acts in His stead in the government of the Church.”

    The Holy Father deserves much respect for that. We need to treat him with reverence.

    “53 Q. Why is the Roman Pontiff the Visible Head of the Church?
    A. The Roman Pontiff is the Visible Head of the Church because he visibly governs her with the authority of Jesus Christ Himself, who is her invisible Head.”

    The Popes governs the Church –> With the authority of Jesus Christ Himself.

    Anyone who belittles, ridicules, undermines (and the like) our Universal Teacher, does the same to Jesus Christ.

    We are not in the position to usurp the Pope’s role.

    The Pope can exercise the LIVING Magisterium when he wants and come up with new insights. We should not treat the Magisterium only as a set of texts written previously as if with those previous texts we can undermine the Pope’s role.

    • Ron Conte says:

      It is so strange to read Bishops saying that the POPE is contradicting the Magisterium, and then they cite the CDF, which has lower authority than the Pope.

  2. Robert Fastiggi says:

    Dear Ron,

    I agree with you that Pope Francis’s affirmation of the right of homosexuals to be in the family is more than prudential. It seems from the full 2019 interview with the Mexican journalist, Valentina Alazraki, Pope Francis was concerned about homosexuals being rejected or cast out by their own family of origin. In our article, what Dawn Eden Goldstein and I saw as prudential was Pope Francis’s affirmation of the need for a law of civil union (or civil coexistence) for homosexual people. This is clear from the context of our words in the article:

    “Pope Francis’s openness to civil unions for homosexual couples in no way signals a change in Catholic moral teaching. Mike Lewis correctly states that ‘Francis’s words here belong entirely to the prudential order. This is not about doctrinal issues. He is proposing what he thinks are sound pastoral and societal approaches towards family members and partners who happen to be homosexual.’” In our article we wanted to make it clear that the Holy Father’s openness to a law of civil coexistence (or civil union) for homosexuals was a prudential judgment. You are correct, though, that his affirmation of the dignity of homosexuals as children of God and their right to be in the family is more than prudential.

  3. erm6 says:

    Thanks Ron and Dr. Fastiggi (and Dr. Goldstein too, if you read this) for your respective articles and the discussion that you are having here. I always look forward to Dr. Fastiggi’s comments, and the discussions that you guys have here in the comment section of Ron’s blog.

    Dr. Goldstein (if you happen to read this) I don’t remember ever seeing you comment on Ron’s blog, but Ron has linked to an article of yours at least once (https://ronconte.com/2019/08/26/dawn-eden-replies-to-austin-ruse/) and it would be really cool if you comment here sometime!

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