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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Vatican has imposed a media blackout after fresh revelations that the pope's approval of gay civil unions in a 2019 interview was censored, only to re-emerge unauthorized in the new Francesco film.
"With reference to the [current media] crisis triggered off by Russian director Evgeny Afineevsky's film Francesco, for now we are not going out with ANY news, neither [on] radio nor [on the] web," ordered Massimiliano Menichetti, head of Vatican Radio and Vatican News, in an email.
"Also, nothing about the film or today's award ceremony in the Vatican," the email instructed, as filmmaker Afineevsky received the Kinéo Movie for Humanity Award in the Vatican gardens Thursday.
"A discussion is active to address the current media crisis. We have not ruled out a statement from the [Holy See] Press Office. If you can, please report any reactions from listeners and followers in the middle or at the end of the day," the communiqué said.
"It is not necessary to report comments [in full], a two-line summary will suffice," Menichetti wrote, in the email obtained by Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.
On Wednesday, Pope Francis welcomed openly gay Afineevsky and the film crew before his general audience in a room adjacent to the Paul VI Hall, a gesture interpreted as the pope giving his blessing to the documentary.
Church Militant contacted the Holy See Press Office asking for clarification but received no response.
Meanwhile, Mexican broadcaster Televisa told the Washington Post that the pope's quote approving gay civil unions was taken from an interview conducted by Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki in 2019.
Televisa spokesman Ruben Acosta Montoya, however, also revealed that the Vatican, which owned and controlled the cameras, had censored the pope's controversial comments.
"Someone at the Vatican gave us the part that we did broadcast, and later they gave the rest of the material to someone else," Montoya remarked.
Alazraki, "our correspondent, has told us that this was not the first time that the pope addressed the issue of the union between people of the same sex," Montoya confirmed.
San Francisco archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone issued a statement Wednesday saying the pope talked about civil unions for gay couples with the bishops of California during their ad limina visit to Rome in January.
As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis supported civil unions for homosexuals. The pontiff's uncontested statements in interviews published in 2014 and 2017 are on record.
The revelations come as a blow to Pope Francis' conservative supporters who are mounting a damage control campaign claiming that the media distorted and misquoted the pontiff.
The Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference in India, comprising bishops from the Syro-Malabar, Latin and Syro-Malankara Churches, called reports of Francis justifying same-sex marriages "baseless and misleading."
"Pastoral services for people living in same-sex relationships are a subject of serious discussion by the Church," it added.
But the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2003 categorically stated "that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions."
In a video statement, Bp. Gregory Parkes of the diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida, clarified that "there has been no change in Catholic Church teaching." Critics noted that the bishop was responding to a "straw man," since no major media was claiming that Pope Francis or the Catholic Church had changed its teaching.
Bishop Parkes also misquoted section 2358 of the Catholic Catechism: "The Catholic Church teaches that men and women regardless of sexual orientation are children of God."
But Catholic writer Carl E. Olson pointed out that Pope Francis has repeatedly used the phrase "children of God" ambiguously.
"First, is Francis speaking of Catholics who are homosexual? Struggling with same-sex attraction? Or all homosexuals? Again, not clear. But the 'we're all children of God' slogan has been a prominent feature of this pontificate," Olson noted.
"Is it true that we are all children of God," he asked. "Well, yes — but no. Whenever I hear the statement 'we are all children of God,' I immediately think of what the Apostle John wrote in his first Epistle," which reads:
No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother. (1 Jn 3:9–10)
"It is not enough, then, to say that a homosexual — or anyone else — is 'a child of God' and leave it at that," he continued, "as if the central mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation are just poetic niceties or doctrinal distractions," Olson noted.
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI noted that we are "children of God" only when "we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and he makes us turn to God saying Abba! Father."