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Francis Becomes First Pope to Endorse Same-Sex Civil Unions

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Pope Francis became the first pontiff to endorse same-sex civil unions in comments for a documentary that premiered Wednesday, sparking cheers from gay Catholics and demands for clarification from conservatives, given the Vatican’s official teaching on the issue.

The papal thumbs-up came midway through the feature-length documentary “Francesco,” which premiered at the Rome Film Festival. The film, which features fresh interviews with the pope, delves into issues Francis cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said.

“You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favor of civil unions as pope, and no pontiff before him had, either.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit who has sought to build bridges with gay Catholics, praised the comments as “a major step forward in the church’s support for LGBT people.”

“The pope’s speaking positively about civil unions also sends a strong message to places where the church has opposed such laws,” Martin said in a statement.

However, conservative Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, called for clarification. “The pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the church about same-sex unions,” he said in a statement. “The church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships.”

And Ed Mechmann, director of public policy at the Archdiocese of New York, said in a blog post that the pope had simply “made a serious mistake.”

Catholic teaching holds that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” A 2003 document from the Vatican’s doctrine office stated the church’s respect for gay people “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

Doing so, the Vatican reasoned, would not only condone “deviant behavior,” but create an equivalence to marriage, which the church holds is an indissoluble union between man and woman.

That document was signed by the then-prefect of the office, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI and Francis’ predecessor.

Later Wednesday, questions arose about when Francis first made the remarks. The scene of his interview is identical to one from 2019 with Mexican broadcaster Televisa, but his comments about the need for legal protections for civil unions apparently never aired until the documentary.

Director Evgeny Afineevsky, who is gay, expressed surprise after the premiere that the pope’s comments had created such a firestorm, saying Francis wasn’t trying to change doctrine but was merely expressing his belief gay people should enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals. He insisted the pope made the comments to him directly, through a translator, but declined to say when.

One main character in the documentary is Juan Carlos Cruz, the Chilean survivor of clergy sexual abuse whom Francis initially discredited during a 2018 visit to Chile.

Cruz, who is gay, said that during his first meetings with the pope in May 2018 after they patched things up, Francis assured him that God made Cruz gay. Cruz tells his own story throughout the film, chronicling both Francis’ evolution on understanding sexual abuse as well as to document the pope’s views on gay people.

Afineevsky had remarkable access to cardinals, the Vatican television archives and the pope himself. He said he negotiated his way in through persistence, and deliveries of Argentine mate tea and Alfajores cookies that he got to the pope via well-connected Argentines in Rome.

“Listen, when you are in the Vatican, the only way to achieve something is to break the rule and then to say, ‘I’m sorry,’” Afineevsky said in an interview.

The director worked official and unofficial channels starting in 2018, and ended up so close to Francis by the end of the project that he showed him the movie on his iPad in August. The two recently exchanged Yom Kippur greetings; Afineevsky is a Russian-born, Israeli-raised Jew now based in Los Angeles. On Wednesday, Afineevsky’s 48th birthday, the director said Francis presented him with a birthday cake at the Vatican.

But “Francesco” is more than a biopic about the pope. Wim Wenders did that in the 2018 film “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.”

“Francesco,” is more a visual survey of the world’s crises and tragedies, with audio from the pope providing possible solutions.

Afineevsky, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 2015 documentary “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” traveled the world to document the film: at Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, where Myanmar’s Rohingya sought refuge; the U.S.-Mexico border; and Francis’ native Argentina.

“The film tells the story of the pope by reversing the cameras,” said Vatican communications director Paolo Ruffini, one of Afineevsky’s closest Vatican-based collaborators.

Ruffini said that when Afineevsky approached him about a documentary, he tried to tamp down his hopes for interviewing the pope. “I told him it wasn’t going to be easy,” he said.

“I told him that many of those encounters had certainly been filmed by the Vatican cameras, and that there he would find a veritable gold mine of stories that told a story,” Ruffini said. “He would be able to tell story of the pope through the eyes of all and not just his own.”

Francis’ outreach dates to his first foreign trip in 2013, when he uttered the now-famous words “Who am I to judge,” when asked during an airborne news conference returning from Rio de Janiero about a purportedly gay priest.

Since then, he has ministered to gays and transsexual prostitutes, and welcomed people in gay partnerships into his inner circle. One of them was his former student, Yayo Grassi, who along with his partner visited Francis at the Vatican Embassy in Washington D.C., during a 2015 visit to the U.S.

The Vatican publicized that encounter, making video and photos of it available, after Francis was ambushed during that same visit by his then-ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who invited the Kentucky anti-gay marriage activist Kim Davis to meet with the pope.

News of the Davis audience made headlines and was viewed by conservatives as a papal stamp of approval for Davis, who was jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. The Vatican vigorously sought to downplay it, with a spokesman saying the meeting by no means indicated Francis’ support for her or her position on gay marriage.

Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was fervently opposed to gay marriage when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. Then, he launched what gay activists remember as a “war of God” against Argentina’s move to approve same-sex marriage.

The pope’s authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin, said at the time of his 2013 election that Bergoglio was politically wise enough to know the church couldn’t win a fight against gay marriage. Instead, Rubin said, Bergoglio urged his fellow bishops to lobby for gay civil unions.

It wasn’t until Bergoglio’s proposal was shot down by the conservative bishops’ conference that he publicly declared his opposition, and the church lost the issue altogether.

In the documentary, Francis essentially confirms Rubin’s account of what transpired. Of his belief in the need for legislation to protect gay couples in civil relationships, he said: “I stood up for that.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an organization of LGBT Catholics, praised Francis’ comments as a “historic” shift for a church that has a record of persecuting gays.

“At the same time, we urge Pope Francis to apply the same kind of reasoning to recognize and bless these same unions of love and support within the Catholic Church, too,” he said in a statement.

More conservative commentators sought to play down Francis’ words and said that while secular civil unions are one thing, a church blessing of them is quite another.

In a tweet, conservative U.S. author and commentator Ryan Anderson noted that he and some colleagues had gone on record a decade ago saying they would support federal civil unions for any two adults who commit to sharing domestic responsibilities. Such an arrangement, Anderson said, would leave churches the option of refusing to recognize these unions as marriage.

AbcNews

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Legendary Football Star, Diego Amando Maradona Dies at 60

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Diego Maradona, one of football’s greatest-ever players, has died. He was 60 years.

The 1986 World Cup winner had surgery to remove a blood clot on the brain earlier this month. The Argentine Football Association confirmed he had died this afternoon.

“The Argentine Football Association, through its president Claudio Tapia, expresses its deepest sorrow for the death of our legend, Diego Armando Maradona. You will always be in our hearts,” they said.

Another of football’s greats, Pele, has led the tributes to: “Certainly, one day we’ll kick a ball together in the sky above.” Follow latest updates and reaction here.

Dr Leopoldo Luque, Maradona’s personal physician, said the former player had shown signs of improvement after a successful operation three weeks ago.

Dr Luque said Maradona “laughed” and “grabbed my hand” just a day after he had the procedure.

“Diego is without any type of neurological deficit, without any type of complication associated with surgery,” Luque said, addressing reporters at the clinic’s door.

“He has an excellent post-operative period, the laboratory parameters even improved.

“The first impression is it is favourable, but it is difficult to evaluate.”

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Gbajabiamila Asked to Cough Out N500m As Compensation for Family of Slain Vendor

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The family of Ifeanyi Okereke, the vendor killed by a security aide of Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house of representatives, is demanding N500 million from the number four citizen.

Last week, Okereke was shot by Abdullahi Hassan, a Department of State Services (DSS) operative attached to the speaker.

According to PUNCH, the demand was contained in a letter addressed to the speaker by Mike Ozekhome, counsel to the family.

In the letter dated November 23, the Okereke family said the demand is not enough to replace their son.

“Our clients have instructed us to make from your good self, the following modest demands: That you use your good offices to ensure the immediate prosecution of your security aide (Abdullahi Hassan), who went on a frolic of his own, clearly acted outside the purview of his duty and responsibility by shooting to death an innocent, harmless and armless citizen,” Ozekhome said.

“That you adequately compensate the Okereke family with a modest sum of N500m only.

“This monetary demand can never adequately replace or take the place of their son, husband, brother, and breadwinner’s life. But it will at least mitigate the obvious trauma and hardship the premature demise of their irreplaceable breadwinner has placed on them.”

The lawyer said if the speaker fails to accede to their demand in seven days, they would take legal steps.

“Take note therefore that it is our clients’ firm instruction that in the event that you fail, refuse and/or neglect to accede to or proffer reasonable compensatory terms to our above modest demands within seven days from the date of this letter, we shall without any further correspondences from us, take appropriate legal steps to enforce our clients’ constitutional rights,” he said.

Gbajabiamila said he has handed over the aide to the DSS for discipline.

He has also visited the family of the deceased to condole with them.

TheCable

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Lekki Shootings: CNN is Desperate, Presented Doctored Video – Lai Mohammed

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has accused CNN of desperation over its second report on the Lekki toll plaza shootings that happened on October 20.

The Minister said this on NTA on Wednesday.

CNN had on Tuesday released a second ‘investigative report’ on the shootings at Lekki toll plaza during the #EndSARS protests amid threats of sanction from the Federal Government.

But the minister faulted CNN’s reports, saying it lacked credible sources.

When asked about the second CNN’s report, Mohammed said, “It shows that they (CNN) are desperate. The so-called recent development has been seen before. There is nothing new. If there is anything new, it is a contradiction of CNN’s position.

“What we are asking CNN is that where is your evidence? The military has been consistent. CNN contravenes the basic principles of journalism – fairness, and balance.

‘They did the story without contacting the Federal Government for its own side. They relied on second and third parties narratives.

“They (CNN) were caught spreading fake news and they are trying to escape.

“We are accusing them (CNN) of basing their stories on videos sourced on social media. CNN has been inconsistent. It also doctored the video it got.

“We are confident in our position.”

On the letter addressed to Jonathan Hawkins, VP (Communications), CNN Centre, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, the minister said, “We have received an acknowledgment and we were told that the letter has been passed to the editorial team.”

CNN, in its second report titled, ‘Analysis of CCTV footage from Lekki toll gate raises new questions about shooting’, stated that it had obtained the video and subsequently analysed its content.

CNN also compared the CCTV footage with some of the videos on social media which the National Broadcasting Commission had sanctioned three local television stations for using and concluded that the authorities had more questions to answer.

The fresh report also shows the Commander, 81 Division, Brig.Gen Ahmed Taiwo, admitting before the judicial panel that his men indeed took live ammunition to the tollgate.

The CNN report also highlights the fact that Brig.Gen Taiwo’s claim is at variance with that of the minister who had claimed last week that the army fired blank bullets.

The Punch

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