Byrnes: 'Pope's statement on same-sex union 'does not alter Church teaching'
Seeking to clarify Pope Francis's recent endorsement of same-sex union, Guam Archbishop Michael Byrnes said the pontifical statement does not entail a reversal of the Catholic Church's stance on marriage.
"In his papacy, the Holy Father has historically expressed great compassion and concern for our brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attraction. Rightfully so," Byrnes said.
"However, he has repeatedly affirmed Church teaching on marriage, that marriage as designed by God, is a union of a man and a woman. I emphasize that the Catechism of the Catholic Church has not changed with respect to the Sixth Commandment," he added.
Byrnes issued the statement following reports by international media, which quoted the pope as saying: “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God. 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.”
The statements were pulled from "Francesco," a new documentary on the life and teaching of Pope Francis, which premiered on Oct. 21 at the Rome Film Festival. The film is scheduled to premiere in the United States at the Savannah Film Festival on Oct. 25.
According to the Vatican's website, the film is produced in part with the UCLA School of Theater Film and Television and directed Evgeny Afineevsky.
Francis has been a controversial and divisive figure in The Vatican. Some applaud his progresive views as a refreshing change from the extreme conservatism of his predecessors, while the traditional Catholics slam him as a danger to the continuity of Catholic teachings.
"First, it’s important to note that the comments attributed to the Pope are from a documentary -- not a papal pronouncement," Byrnes sai. "I regard it similar to what he says when he lets reporters ask him questions on his flights to and from whatever country he has visited. Which is to say, it has very little ecclesiastical weight. It does not alter Church teaching."
On Guam, same-sex marriage has been officially recognized since June 9, 2015, following a federal court's ruling that held the territory's prohibition of same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
On Aug. 27, 2015, the Guam Marriage Equality Act of 2015 came into effect, officially incorporating the federal court ruling into statutory law. Guam, albeit a predominantly Catholic community, was the first U.S. territory to allow same-sex marriage despite the church's opposition and displeasure.
"United in matrimony, a man and woman cooperate with Our Creator in the miracle of life, procreation," Byrnes said, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church. "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."
The archdiocese said Byrnes will later issue a pastoral letter to further address the same-sex maarainge issue.