The Vatican urged Catholics and non-Catholics alike Thursday to unite in campaigning against gay marriages and gay adoptions, seeking to stem the widening legal recognition of same-sex unions and the increasing acceptance of homosexuality. Catholic politicians have a "moral duty" to oppose laws granting legal rights to gay couples, and non-Catholics should follow their lead since the issue concerns "natural moral law" and not just Roman Catholic teaching, said the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in its latest effort to rally public opinion on the issue.
The 12-page document, which was issued in seven languages, was immediately criticized by gay groups across North America and Europe, where politicians--including some conservatives--are increasingly granting same-sex couples the same legal status as heterosexual couples.
"This new document is intended to intimidate public officials across the globe into doing what the Vatican has not been able to do on its own--stem the growing tide for justice," said Marianne Duddy, executive director of Dignity USA, an organization of gay Catholics. "It is a tremendous shame that the
leaders of our church are becoming the vocal proponents for intolerance and continuing discrimination."
But the document was welcomed by some conservatives and the clergy, including those in Pope John Paul II's native Poland, where Roman Catholic bishops read out excerpts of the text at a press conference to condemn a proposal by leftist lawmakers to legalize same-sex unions. "The idea is immoral and hurting to families and marriages," said Bishop Stanislaw Stefanek. "We strongly object to it."
The document, "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons," sets out a battle plan for politicians confronted with legislation legalizing same-sex unions and also rails against gay adoption, saying children raised by gay parents face developmental "obstacles" because they are deprived of having either a mother or a father.
"Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development," it said.
The document says Catholic politicians must vote against laws granting recognition to same-sex unions. If the laws are already on the books, politicians must speak out against them, work to repeal them, and try to limit their impact on society. "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family," the document said. "To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral," it added, although it didn't provide for specific penalties for Catholics who fail to oppose such laws.
It wasn't clear what impact, if any, the new document would have on Catholic lawmakers grappling with demands from gay groups for equality in areas such as inheritance rights and being allowed to make health care decisions for incapacitated partners.
Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien, who is Catholic, has supported a proposed law that would conform to court rulings in defining marriage as a union between two people, rather than a man and a woman. "As prime minister of Canada, he has the moral responsibility to protect the equality of Canadians," Chretien spokesman Thoren Hudyma told The [Toronto] Globe and Mail in explaining that Chretien's duty is to the public, not his church.
In June an appeals court in Ontario ruled that Canada's definition of marriage as a union between only a man and a woman was unconstitutional, paving the way for legalized same-sex marriage there.
Vermont has a civil union law, giving same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities of traditional marriage, and the highest court in Massachusetts is weighing whether to legalize such unions. In reaction, some Republican lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are calling for a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriages nationwide, despite recent polls showing that opposition to gay marriage has diminished in recent years.
On Wednesday President Bush weighed in on the issue, saying at a press conference that marriage should be strictly defined as a union between a man and a woman and that he wants to "codify that one way or the other." Government lawyers are exploring measures to enshrine it into law, Bush added.
The following are excerpts from the Vatican document:
"No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives."
"Lifestyles and the underlying presuppositions these express not only externally shape the life of society, but also tend to modify the younger generation's perception and evaluation of forms of behavior. Legal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a
devaluation of the institution of marriage."
"As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development."
"The principles of respect and nondiscrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions. Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits is only unacceptable when it is contrary to justice. The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it."