Roman Catholic bishops ended their national meeting in the nation's capital on Wednesday by condemning same-sex unions. The prelates overwhelmingly approved a document urging states to withhold recognition of same-sex marriages. The church leaders said they had an obligation to "give witness to the whole moral truth" and reinforce Catholic teaching that gay sex is a sin. Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, acknowledged that some may question how Catholic leaders can make statements on sexual morality following nearly two years of scandal concerning priests who molested children. But he said the church must speak out "in season and out of season.... Yes, the church is human, but she must run by the passion and the prophetic office given her by Christ."
This week's meeting was the fourth national bishops' assembly since the molestation crisis erupted in January 2002. Unlike at other recent bishops' meetings, the agenda this week was not dominated by the abuse crisis. Recent surveys indicate that rank-and-file parishioners are responding somewhat positively to the reforms the bishops are making to restore trust in their leadership and protect children. Regarding same-sex unions, the bishops said they felt a need to make a public statement now in light of gay couples' gaining greater acceptance in society and seeking the same benefits as heterosexual couples. The bishops approved the statement by a vote of 234-3, with three abstentions. The interfaith gay advocacy group Soulforce called the document "confusing, harmful, and spiritually violent." Laura Montgomery Rutt, a Soulforce spokeswoman, said, "When will the Catholic Church learn that this kind of spiritual violence leads to great pain, suffering, and even death?"