Well, as you have probably already heard, Pope Francis was interviewed for a new documentary and he seemingly endorsed same sex inclusive civil unions (SSICU). As you might imagine, this has put social media into a frenzy. Progressives are claiming victory while conservatives are either arguing that the Holy Father didn’t really endorse SSICU or they are arguing that the Pope is a material heretic. Now, I only speak English so I can’t really speak to the ‘mistranslation’ argument. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vatican came out and clarified that SSICU were not endorsed. Nonetheless, it’s important to point out that even if the Holy Father personally endorsed SSICU in an interview, it wouldn’t follow that there has been a change in the Church’s official teaching about SSICU. Personal opinions expressed in interviews are not authoritative. As far as I know, the official stance on the topic is found in a CDF document entitled, ‘Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons.’ It’s here where the Church seems to make a judgement, that given various sociological factors, the faithful should not pursue the legal recognition of SSICU. I’m in full agreement with the stance endorsed in the document and anything that follows from this post that isn’t consistent with the Church’s teaching, I’ll be more than happy to recant. No cafeteria Catholicism here!
As an analytic philosopher, I like to think about all of the possibilities. What if Pope Francis went through the official channels and argued that due to various sociological changes, the previous prudential stance endorsed by the Vatican has changed? Would this be problematic? It’s not clear to me that it would. Perhaps you would think that pursuing recognition of SSICU is equivalent to the Church promoting disordered acts. And given that we are prohibited from cooperating formally or in a proximate material way with evil, Pope Francis would be morally wrong in changing the Church’s judgement on SSICU. But it’s far from clear that the Church condemning homosexual sexual acts as intrinsically disordered while also permitting the state to remove obstacles for same-sex couples to obtain certain benefits (while still making marriage distinct from these unions), is necessarily cooperating with evil in a proximate way. It seems like it could be a case of remote material cooperation.
Anyway, I’m pretty doubtful that the Pope will make any official comment on SSICU and so I do see this more as a thought experiment. Nonetheless, after thinking through the issue with fellow philosophers and theologians (who are in part responsible for helping me clarify and think through my views), it isn’t obvious to me that this is indeed part of an ongoing crisis of Pope Francis’ papacy.