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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Leading prelates are reprimanding Pope Francis for his "scandalous" endorsement of homosexual civil unions, asking the pontiff to retract his approval "for the sake of the salvation of his immortal soul."
"Every true Catholic, every true Catholic priest, every true Catholic bishop must with deep sorrow and a weeping heart regret and protest against the unheard fact, that Pope Francis ... uttered in the documentary film Francesco ... his support for civil same-sex unions," Bp. Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, announced Thursday.
"Even if persons living in such unions should not engage in mutual sexual pleasure — which in reality has been shown to be quite unrealistic — such unions represent a great scandal, a public recognition of sins of fornication against nature and a continuous proximate occasion of sin," Schneider argued.
Apologists for Pope Francis, including Argentine archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, had rushed to the pontiff's defense, interpreting his words as approving "very close same-sex unions, which do not involve sexual intercourse, but a very intense and stable partnership."
Schneider also asserted that "the advocating of a legal union so that a lifestyle against the explicit commandment of God, against human nature and against human reason" is "a new doctrine" and an "anti-pastoral measure" which "perverts the grace of our God into sexual pleasure (Jude 4)."
Blasting the pontiff's proposal as "scheming with sin," the bishop of Astana urged Catholics to pray so that "Pope Francis may convert and retract formally his approval for the civil same-sex unions, in order to confirm his brethren, as the Lord has commanded him (cf. Luke 22:32)."
Schneider compared the current situation of the Church to the Israelites in the Babylonian exile "by the rivers of Babylon, weeping when remembering Zion, when remembering the luminous and crystal-clear teaching of the [previous] popes, of our Holy Mother Church."
Bishop Emeritus Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, Philippines, said he was "really scandalized" by the pope's "defense of homosexual union, which surely leads to immoral acts," adding he had "very serious doubts about the moral correctness" about the pontiff's position.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, former prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, denounced Pope Francis' "private opinions" as not corresponding "to the constant teaching of the Church, as it is expressed in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and is guarded, protected and interpreted by the Magisterium."
Burke lamented about Francis' comments:
Equally sad and concerning is the turmoil, confusion and error they cause among the Catholic faithful, as is the scandal they cause, in general, by giving the totally false impression that the Catholic Church has had a change of course, that is, has changed its perennial teaching regarding such fundamental and critical questions.
In his second column excoriating Pope Francis, Vatican whistleblower Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò said the pontiff's words were a massive boost to "LGBTQ ideology, which today is being imposed on the global level."
"Bergoglio's words have already been received by the gay lobby worldwide as an authoritative support for their claims," the former papal envoy to the United States underscored.
"Behind all of his utterances there is the effort to arouse the reaction of the healthy part of the Church, provoking it with heretical statements, with disconcerting gestures, with documents that contradict the Magisterium," Viganò commented, making the pontiff "a candidate for 'pontiff' of a new religion, with new commandments, new morals and new liturgies."
The former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cdl. Gerhard Müller, called the pontiff's statement "a purely private expression of opinion, which every Catholic can and should freely contradict."
In a statement to LifeSite News, Müller warned of an "idolatrous papolatry similar to the principle according to which the leader or the party is always right."
"The Magisterium serves the Word of God and never stands above Revelation," he stressed.
Auxiliary Bp. Marian Eleganti, of Chur, Switzerland, also blasted "the papal interviews" as "inflationary," offering "personal views that are neither indisputable nor infallible."
Meanwhile, following speculations that the pope's words had been mistranslated from Spanish, Francis' longtime theological advisor Abp. Víctor Fernández clarified that the term "convivencia civil" rendered as "civil unions" was correct.
"If you want to talk about family you say 'convivencia familiar.' If you say 'convivencia civil' when you are asking for legal protection, you are talking of civil union," a Spanish native-speaker confirmed.
"I am a native Spanish speaker. He said it — no wrong translation. He said that we must create a 'civil union law' — period. If they say it was a wrong translation they are lying," the Spanish-speaker responded to Francis' apologists claiming his words were mistranslated.
In a column for Britain's leftwing The Guardian, openly gay Catholic priest James Alison confirmed Pope Francis' position and said he wasn't surprised by the pope's affirmation of same-sex civil unions.
"This was apparent to me when he [Francis] called me by phone to affirm me in my priesthood, nullifying an attempt that had been made to remove my clerical status because I'm an openly gay man," Alison stated.
Pope Francis told Alison in the phone call: "I want you to walk with deep interior freedom, following the spirit of Jesus. And I give you the power of the keys. Do you understand? I give you the power of the keys."
Evangelical Christian leaders also responded with a stern repudiation of Francis' statements.
Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, said he found the pope's comments "unthinkable in light of the Word of God."
Graham elaborated: "For Pope Francis to attempt to normalize homosexuality is to say that Holy Scriptures are false, that our sins really don't matter, and that we can continue living in them. If that were true, then Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection wouldn't have been needed."
The comments, on Graham's Facebook page and reported by Newsweek, received over 70,000 comments from Catholics and evangelicals, many calling Francis the "Antichrist."
Pope Francis' words "reveal another sign of the recklessness of this papacy and demonstrates the undermining of the truth, doctrine and moral logic of his own Church," remarked Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"Given the influence of that Church worldwide," Mohler added, "it will weaken Christian witness to marriage and sexuality and gender according to God's will and God's Word."
On Thursday, film director Evgeny Afineevsky, who is himself homosexual, was presented with the Kinéo Movie for Humanity Award Friday in the Vatican gardens.