The Vatican issued a new set of guidelines for Catholic politicians Thursday, reminding them to heed the church's "nonnegotiable" teachings on abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and other issues when making public policy. The Vatican said it is publishing the document now because of medical and scientific advances and because of the "emergence of ambiguities or questionable positions in recent times." The guidelines, prepared by the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, don't offer any change to the church's long-held opposition to abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage or its promotion of the rights of the unborn. Rather, they serve as a reminder of church teachings for Catholic politicians, so that when they vote for legislation or otherwise influence public policy, they do so in line with certain "nonnegotiable ethical principles."
In particular, the document said that laws safeguarding marriage between one man and one woman must be promoted and that "in no way can other forms of cohabitation be placed on the same level as marriage, nor can they receive legal recognition as such." The guidelines don't mention punishment--such as excommunication--for Catholic politicians who fail to toe the line. Rather, they frame the issue as one of "conscience" that politicians will have to deal with.The Vatican stressed that it isn't trying to dictate policy or interfere in matters of state but rather to "instruct and illuminate" Catholic political leaders. The timing of the document's release comes a week before the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision lifting antiabortion laws nationwide.