Pope Francis: Benedict XVI defended me in face of accusations ‘that I promoted gay marriage’

Pope Francis blesses a baby at his Wednesday general audience on March 20, 2024, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 3, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

In a new book interview with Pope Francis, the Holy Father recalled that Benedict XVI defended him when he was accused of promoting “homosexual marriage.”

In the Spanish-language book “The Successor: My Memories of Benedict XVI,” Pope Francis relates that on one occasion he had “a very beautiful visit with him [Benedict XVI] when some cardinals came to see him, surprised by my words about marriage, and he was very clear with them.”

“One day they showed up at his house to practically put me on trial and accused me before him that I promoted homosexual marriage. Benedict didn’t get agitated, because he knew perfectly well what I think. He listened to them all, one by one, calmed them down and explained everything to them,” Pope Francis recounted.

The Holy Father explained that this happened when he mentioned that “since marriage is a sacrament, it cannot be administered to homosexual couples, but that, in some way, a guarantee or civil protection had to be given to the situation these people are in. I said that in France there is the formula of ‘civil unions,’ which, at first glance, may be a good option, since it is not limited to marriage.”

Pope Francis recalled that he gave as an example the case of “three elderly retired women who need to share health services, inheritance, housing, etc. I wanted to say that it seemed like an interesting formula to me.”

The Holy Father related that after these words “some went to tell Benedict that I was saying heresies and what do I know. He listened to them and with great high-mindedness, helped them distinguish things… he told them: ‘This is not a heresy.’ How he defended me!… He always defended me.”

What did Pope Francis say about marriage in 2021?

On Sept. 15, 2021, during the press conference on the flight back to Rome from Hungary and Slovakia, the Holy Father was asked about the European Parliament resolution asking member countries to recognize same-sex marriage.

“I have spoken clearly about this: Marriage is a sacrament. Marriage is a sacrament and the Church does not have the power to change the sacraments, as the Lord has instituted it,” Pope Francis replied.

“These are laws that try to help the situation of many people with different sexual orientations, and it is important that these people be helped but without imposing things that, by their nature, are not appropriate in the Church,” he added.

“But if they want to lead a life together as a homosexual couple, the states have the possibility of supporting them civilly, of giving them inheritance and health security. The French have a law on this matter not only for homosexuals but for all people who must associate,” the pontiff added.

Benedict XVI and homosexual unions

In June 2003, when he was prefect of the Congregation — today the Dicastery — for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, published the document “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons.

In its conclusion, the text states: “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.”

“Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself,” the document explains.

As pope, Benedict XVI defended on more than one occasion the importance of the family based on marriage between a man and a woman.

In a January 2007 address to the Roman Rota, Benedict XVI said: “Every marriage is, of course, the result of the free consent of the man and the woman, but in practice, their freedom expresses the natural capacity inherent in their masculinity and femininity.”

“The union takes place by virtue of the very plan of God who created them male and female and gives them the power to unite for ever those natural and complementary dimensions of their persons,” the pontiff explained.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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