Questions and Answers with Bishop Schlert on the Pope’s Statement on Civil Unions

When Pope Francis appeared to make comments in a new documentary film supporting legal status for same-sex civil unions – which is contrary to Church doctrine -- it made headlines around the world.

Since then, there has been speculation about the origin and context of the video comments.

Many of the faithful in the Diocese of Allentown have asked about the Pope’s comments, and about the actual Church teaching on the subject. Below, Bishop Schlert answers questions to help clarify things.

What is your reaction to the Pope’s reported comments?

Bishop Schlert: While I am typically hesitant to weigh in on remarks by the Holy Father that may have been taken out of context or misconstrued, I am deeply concerned about the confusion, anxiety, and division that these recent comments have already sown among the faithful and the broader community. Constant Church teachings do not change as a result of a papal sound-bite.

What is the Church’s teaching on marriage?

Bishop Schlert: The Church’s consistent and perennial teaching reiterates the Truth that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman. This teaching is well-grounded in Sacred Scripture and deeply rooted in the Natural Law written in our hearts.

What about Church teaching on civil unions?

Bishop Schlert: The Church cannot support the acceptance of any objectively immoral relationship – whether it is between two people of the same sex, or between a man and a woman who are unmarried.

The official teaching of the Church on this matter comes from Saint John Paul II in the 2003 document issued by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith under the leadership of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI):

The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote, and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society (Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons, # 11).

Still, people with same-sex attraction are welcomed, right?

Bishop Schlert: Yes.Individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God. They must have their personal human rights respected, defended, and protected by law. We should not forget that the Holy Father also said people who experience same-sex attractions must never be rejected or excluded by their own families.

The Church is welcoming of everyone, but being ‘welcomed’ does not exempt someone from living in accord with Church doctrines. Welcoming that does not lead to the unchanging Truth of the Catholic Faith is a false accompaniment.

I am grateful to our priests, deacons and religious for their daily pastoral outreach to persons with same-sex attraction. Their merciful counsel, compassionate listening, and genuine respect for the good of each and every soul are signs of their priestly care in imitation of Christ the Good Shepherd.


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