On Wednesday, CNN's Daniel Burke gave liberal-tinged spin/extrapolation about Pope Francis's answer to an Italian newspaper's question about secular civil unions. Burke asserted in a CNN.com article that the pontiff "reaffirmed the Catholic Church's opposition to gay marriage...but suggested in a newspaper interview that it could support some types of civil unions."
However, the journalist left out that despite the Bishop of Rome's generalized answer, he concretely opposed a proposed civil unions bill in Malta near the end of 2013. More recently, the Pope's spokesman lashed out at the Italian media in January 2014 for spinning a separate remark from the native of Argentina as "an opening to legal provision for civil unions for gay couples, a subject of debate in Italy."
After his misleading lead sentence, Burke outlined that "the Pope reiterated the church's longstanding teaching that 'marriage is between a man and a woman.' However, he said, 'We have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety.'" He continued by paraphrasing the rest of Francis's answer to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The Pope's full answer during the interview, unfiltered through CNN, tells a different story:
Many nations have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?
Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between persons, such as ensuring health care. It is about pacts of cohabitating of various natures, of which I wouldn't know how to list the different ways. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety.
In other words, the pontiff explained the social left's justification for the passage of civil unions. At no point did he say cohabitation is okay, nor did he give approval to civil unions. The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns fornication as "gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality," and later states that "free unions" and the "right to a trial marriage" are "situations [which] offend against the dignity of marriage; they destroy the very idea of the family; they weaken the sense of fidelity. They are contrary to the moral law."
The CNN correspondent also buried another significant answer that Pope Francis gave during the interview about sexuality. The Italian journalists asked, "At half a century from Paul VI's [encyclical] Humanae Vitae, can the Church take up again the theme of birth control? Cardinal Martini, your confrere, thought that the moment had come." The pontiff replied, in part, "his [Paul VI] genius was prophetic. He had the courage to place himself against the majority, defending the moral discipline, exercising a culture brake, opposing present and future neo-Malthusianism."
Burke didn't mention this until twelve paragraphs in, and like the issue of civil unions, he tried to find the silver lining:
In Wednesday's interview, Francis also addressed several other controversial issues, including the Catholic Church's ban on contraception, the role of women and the devastating clergy sexual abuse scandal.
On contraception, the Pope praised Pope Paul VI for having the "courage" to "go against the majority" when restating the ban in 1968. But, Francis said, the church must also be "merciful" and "attentive to concrete situations."
Contraception and church's ban on divorced Catholics receiving holy communion, will likely be addressed at major meetings of Catholic bishops in Rome in 2014 and 2015.
“We must give a response. But to do so, we must reflect much in depth,” the Pope said Wednesday.