On October 21, Mgr. Marcello Semeraro, still bishop of Albano, former secretary of C7 and new prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, answered questions from the newspaper La Repubblica. The interview commented on Pope Francis' position on civil union between people of the same sex.
Four answers, four short answers are enough for Bishop Semeraro to contradict himself heavily, to relegate recent texts of the Magisterium to the “outdated” category, and to make an affirmation condemned by the Syllabus of Pius IX—not to forget the abundant use of doublespeak.
A “New Path”
The prelate begins by admitting that “this is perhaps the first time” that Francis has spoken so explicitly of his acceptance, even of his promotion of civil unions between homosexuals. But he then immediately adds that he is only following “a path already opened,” notably by Amoris Laetitia.
If one follows the reasoning correctly, the post-synodal exhortation had already contained the germ of this statement. Bishop Semeraro does not say how this germ is contained, but indeed, Amoris Laetitia teaches us that any union where there is love is good in itself, regardless of the legal bond that could give it a kind of fullness. The implicit conclusion is simple: it is through the same door opened to divorced-remarried that same-sex unions can enter.
Asked about the nature of this “path,” the future cardinal becomes very evasive, even obscure. He filling time with trifles and platitudes: “names are more important than adjectives, …people count more than their historical determinations.” Then he suddenly turns to a whole different subject: “Everyone, including homosexuals, has a right of citizenship in the Church.”
But it is not about the Church, it is about the political society. It is not about baptism, or faith, or charity, it is about the place of marriage in society. Or on the contrary, the place that is given today to what is opposed to marriage with more or less force: free union, legal cohabitation, or civil union of people of the same sex.
The Art of Speaking Without Saying Anything
To make himself understood, Bishop Semeraro began to speak drivel, explaining that the premises should not go beyond the conclusions: we should not make Francis say what he does not say.
The journalist obviously did not get it and frankly asks the future cardinal to explain to him what Francis is not saying. The bishop’s thoughts are lost in a maze: the Pope knows what he is saying, he is faithful to doctrine, he knows the Catechism of the Church ... and then to affirm that marriage is not something merely legal for the Church. And the Pope does not deny it.
If we try to understand, Bishop Semeraro means that Francis does not equate same-sex union with marriage. He may do well to reassure us, but he is implying that this is what could have been understood ...
Completely baffled, the journalist ends up saying that the Pope’s words are “light years away from certain positions taken in the past.”
A Final Punch Line
The answer - the last - begins with a sort of negation of the very nature of the Church, assimilating to the passage to the last proposition condemned by the Syllabus which says: “The Roman Pontiff can and must be reconciled and compromise with progress, liberalism, and modern civilization.”
The prelate affirms in fact: “But society has also changed a lot, and consequently the Church.” If he is talking about the Church made up of men, who have changed over the years, why not? But if he wants to talk about the divine constitution of the Church, her dogmas, her faith, and her discipline: then the assertion is truly astounding, and frankly, it smacks of heresy.
This ecclesial development is enough to give one vertigo. To see this, it suffices to recall a text signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a text which only takes up traditional theology to apply it to the current situation.
Francis and the Future Cardinal
These are the Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, a text published on June 3, 2003, and approved by John Paul II, who remained firm on moral questions. The aim of this document was to prevent the legal recognition of same-sex unions, by providing arguments to bishops and politicians.
After a reminder on marriage and on the objective disorder that homosexual inclination constitutes, the text takes up the attitude towards the aforementioned unions. The conclusion of no. 5 is clear: “In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized…, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application.”
The next chapter provides arguments “against legal recognition of homosexual unions” in various aspects. According to the opposition to right reason: “Legal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.”
According to the biological and human order, because “Homosexual unions are totally lacking in the biological and anthropological elements of marriage and family which would be the basis, on the level of reason, for granting them legal recognition. Such unions are not able to contribute in a proper way to the procreation and survival of the human race.”
According to the social order: “The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it.”
And finally according to the legal order: “Because married couples ensure the succession of generations and are therefore eminently within the public interest, civil law grants them institutional recognition. Homosexual unions, on the other hand, do not need specific attention from the legal standpoint since they do not exercise this function for the common good.”
The final chapter encourages politicians to take a firm moral line against legal attempts to recognize homosexual unions. He specifies: “If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians.”
As a result, “the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against,” recognition of homosexual unions. “To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral,” he concludes.
Thus, what was morally forbidden 17 years ago, under pain of serious sin, for Cardinal Ratzinger and John Paul II, is now to be permitted and even encouraged for Bishop Semeraro, an echo of Francis. It is no longer evolution, but revolution.
The last word will be for Chesterton who in his book Charles Dickens wrote, “We don't want a Church that follows the world. We want a Church that leads the world.”