According to an auxiliary bishop from Malta, Pope Francis is “shocked” that adoption for same-gender couples would be legalized in that nation. Given the pope’s largely LGBT-positive reputation and recent accolades as Person of the Year from several publications, including The Advocate, many are wondering what to make of this story and whether there is more than meets the eye.
First, some context. Malta began considering a bill legalizing civil unions this fall. Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna, who is at the center of this controversy, has previously commented on LGBT matters in both positive and negative ways. New remarks by Scicluna during Christmas Mass triggered criticism after he defended heternormative ideas about family using the Holy Family as his example.
Ignoring the non-traditional nature of the Holy Family, which Bondings 2.0 reflected upon last Sunday, the bishop emphasized his belief that children need a mother and a father to be raised properly. Scicluna has premised his opposition to civil unions on this belief that adoption by same-gender couples would be harmful for children, which he has stated in interviews and open letters, as well as in his Christmas homily.
When interviewed about these remarks, he mentioned a December 12th meeting with Pope Francis as his defense. The Advocate reports further:
“In an interview with the Sunday Times of Malta, Bishop Charles Scicluna says that during a meeting on December 12 he told the pope about the bill’s plan to allow same-sex couples to adopt children, and ‘he encouraged me to speak out.’ Scicluna described the pope as ‘quite shocked by the issue of civil unions and gay adoptions.’
“The pope is not yet on record having personally stepped into any country’s policy debate on LGBT equality, instead he’s called on the Catholic Church to spend less time emphasizing these issues. So Scicluna’s claim that the pope told him to ‘speak out’ has grabbed attention.”
Further complicating this story is Pope Francis’ previous support for civil unions and opposition of adoption by same-gender couples when he was a cardinal in Argentina. William Lindsey who blogs at Bilgrimage has one theory for why this Scicluna story appeared:
“And so prediction #2 for 2014: we’re going to see more and more adroit (and downright cynical) attempts of these interest groups to seed in the mainstream media stories like the recent report by Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta that Pope Francis is ‘shocked’ by the idea of gay adoption of children. The point of these stories is not so much to inform us that Francis abides by traditional Catholic teachings about homosexuality: it’s to undercut Francis’s effect as a teacher in the economic arena by dividing those inclined to welcome his socioeconomic teachings around issues of gender and sexual orientation.“As you assess the Scicluna report, keep in mind that Scicluna was a student of Cardinal Raymond Burke, who directed Scicluna’s dissertation, and who was recently displaced by Francis from his kingmaking role in appointing new U.S. Catholic bishops…When you hear Scicluna inform the media that Pope Francis is stalwartly anti-gay, think Burke.”