Alarmed by the growing legal acceptance worldwide of same-sex marriage, the Vatican is issuing new instructions to bishops and Catholic politicians in an effort to halt the trend. The instructions, which call on politicians to oppose extending marriage rights to any but heterosexual couples, are in a document prepared by the church's guardian of orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document--"Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons"--will be released Thursday, the Vatican said.
Pope John Paul II and top Vatican officials have been speaking out for months against legislative proposals to legalize same-sex marriage in Europe, North America, and elsewhere. In January the pope approved guidelines for Catholic politicians stipulating that church opposition to abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage were not up for negotiation. It said laws safeguarding marriage between a man and a 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."
But legal acceptance is growing. Two Canadian provinces--Ontario and British Columbia--have legalized
same-sex marriage under recent court rulings, a move that has attracted gays from across the border in the United States to have ceremonies performed there. Massachusetts's highest court is considering whether to legalize same-sex marriage in a case filed by seven gay couples who were denied marriage licenses. A similar lawsuit also is under consideration by a court in New Jersey.
Earlier this month a top German cardinal condemned Germany's same-sex marriage law after it was upheld by the country's supreme court, calling it a blow to the family. "Now the associations of homosexuals have a potent arm to obtain further concessions on the road toward full equality with married couples, including the right to adoption," Cardinal Karl Lehman complained in a Vatican Radio interview.
The Vatican is particularly worried about the waning influence of the Catholic Church in Europe. Drafters of a proposed constitution for the European Union ignored Vatican requests to include explicit mention of Europe's Christian roots. On Sunday the pope lamented that the church's message was being watered down in Europe.
Vatican officials said the document--12 pages long and available in seven languages--is devoted entirely to the issue of same-sex marriage.