Pope Francis claims Pope Benedict XVI defended him over same-sex civil unions stance: report

Former pope Benedict is greeted by Pope Francis during athe ceremony to mark his 65th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood at the Vatican June 28, 2016.Osservatore Romano

(CP) Pope Francis has reportedly claimed in a new book that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, defended Francis' support for legal civil union protections for same-sex couples to prelates.

Excerpts of the pontiff's new book, The Successor: My Memories of Benedict XVI, which is slated for publication in Spanish on Wednesday, maintain that Benedict XVI defended Francis on the issue in front of an undisclosed group of cardinals, according to Reuters.

"They showed up at his home to practically put me on trial and they accused me in front of him of backing same-sex marriage," Francis said.

The former pope reportedly helped the cardinals to "distinguish" Francis' views on the issue, explaining to them that his position was "no heresy," according to Francis' recollection in the book.

Pope Francis, who endorsed civil unions for homosexual couples while serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, became the first pontiff to do so in 2020.

"Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God," Francis asserted during an interview for the film "Francesco."

"Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it," he added. "What we have to create is a civil union law; that way, they are legally covered."

The Vatican's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith sent shockwaves through the Roman Catholic Church last December when it issued "Fiducia Supplicans," which permits priests to bless "couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church's perennial teaching on marriage."

After the guidance drew opposition from Catholic bishops, mainly in Africa and Eastern Europe, the Vatican subsequently released five pages of clarification to the guidance.

The Vatican insisted that "the document is clear and definitive about marriage and sexuality," adding that the "non-ritualized form of blessing" authorized by the declaration "does not intend to justify anything that is not morally acceptable" but instead amounts to a "response of a pastor towards two persons who ask for God's help."

Other Catholic prelates pushed back against any claim that Benedict would have supported the guidance.

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller of Germany claimed during an event marking the first anniversary of Benedict's death last December that the declaration "never would have happened [under Benedict] because it was so ambiguous," according to Reuters.

Mueller, who served as the head of the Vatican's doctrinal office before Francis removed him in 2013, denied the metaphysical existence of marriage between two members of the same sex.

"There is no homosexual matrimony," he said. "It does not exist, it cannot exist, despite ideologies we have [today]," he said.

In 2003, Benedict XVI — who was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and prefect of the Vatican's doctrinal office — signed off on a document asserting that compassion for homosexuals in the Church "cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions."

Other portions of Francis' new book detail the political maneuvering behind the 2005 papal conclave that led to Benedict's election following the death of Pope John Paul II, according to The Associated Press.

Francis, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, claims some of his fellow cardinals "used" him to siphon votes away from then-Cardinal Ratzinger during the 2005 conclave.

"They told me afterward that they didn't want a 'foreign' pope,'" said Francis, who ultimately supported Benedict's election.

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