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Bishops' Head Welcomes Vatican Statement on Legal Recognition of Unions Between Homosexual Persons

 
July 31, 2003

WASHINGTON (July 31, 2003) — Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), welcomed the Vatican document entitled "Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons." He urged Catholics and all persons of good will to give the document serious and thoughtful attention.

The document was prepared by the Holy See's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and made public by the Vatican July 31.

It declares that "legal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage."

"By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties," the document says.

"If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibilities as politicians," the document asserts.

"When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it." When such legislation is already in force, the Catholic politician must oppose it in those ways that are possible, the document states.

In his statement, Bishop Gregory said: "These considerations are intended to re-express the Church's teachings about the unique character of marriage and its place and role in society."

"In affirming the teaching which has been consistent in law for centuries, the 'Considerations' opposes the legalization of homosexual unions and the granting to such relationships the legal equivalence of marriage," Bishop Gregory continued. "With the purpose of protecting the common good and preserving the family, the document affirms '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.'"

Establishing a legal equivalence between marriage and homosexual relationships "not only weakens the unique meaning of marriage; it also weakens the role of law itself by forcing the law to violate the truth of marriage and family as the natural foundation of society and culture," Bishop Gregory said.

"At the same time that these 'Considerations' testify to the uniqueness of marriage they also continue to teach clearly about the respect due homosexual persons and condemn all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse toward men and women with homosexual tendencies," Bishop Gregory stated. "Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the document affirms that they 'must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.' Moral truth, the document states, is contradicted 'both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.'"

"Because there is an effort underway in many places to legalize homosexual unions, the 'Considerations' draws out the implications for Catholics as they engage the society in which they live," Bishop Gregory continued. "Catholics must refrain from 'any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application' of laws that give the legal status and rights belonging to marriage to homosexual unions. Catholic politicians, in particular, must oppose such laws when they are proposed."

"Given both the truth and the beauty of the Church's teaching on marriage, I urge all Catholics and all men and women of good will to give the most serious and thoughtful attention to these 'Considerations.' Because the human intellect is naturally drawn to the truth, as the human heart is drawn by nature to the good, I am confident that many a careful reader will see the wisdom of what is proposed in this document, including many who may think otherwise at first."

Below is the full text of Bishop Gregory's statement:

Statement by Bishop Wilton D. Gregory

I welcome the document issued today by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – "Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons." These considerations are intended to re-express the Church's teachings about the unique character of marriage and its place and role in society. Drawing on the teachings of natural law and the history of cultural traditions, as well as the constant teaching of the Church, the document recognizes marriage as a life-long covenant between a man and a woman. It affirms that by their mutual commitment to one another and by their openness to cooperating in God's act of creation, a husband and wife bring forth the family as the foundation of society and culture. The truth of marriage is beautifully and properly characterized as a caring and loving relation between a husband and a wife who fulfill themselves as persons by complementing one another in domestic life and in the natural creation of new life.

In affirming the teaching which has been consistent in law for centuries, the "Considerations" opposes the legalization of homosexual unions and the granting to such relationships the legal equivalence of marriage. With the purpose of protecting the common good and preserving the family, the document affirms, "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 goes on to note the danger of establishing a legal equivalence between marriage and homosexual relationships as has happened both in Europe and in North America. This equivalence not only weakens the unique meaning of marriage; it also weakens the role of law itself by forcing the law to violate the truth of marriage and family as the natural foundation of society and culture. Although the majority in the recent Supreme Court decision, Lawrence vs. Texas, was careful to make clear that this case did not involve the question of whether the government must formally recognize homosexual relationships, the tone of the decision gave reason to be concerned.

At the same time that these "Considerations" testify to the uniqueness of marriage they also continue to teach clearly about the respect due homosexual persons and condemn all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse toward men and women with homosexual tendencies. Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the document affirms that they "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity." Moral truth, the document states, is contradicted "both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons."

Because there is an effort underway in many places to legalize homosexual unions, the "Considerations" draws out the implications for Catholics as they engage the society in which they live. Catholics must refrain from "any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application" of laws that give the legal status and rights belonging to marriage to homosexual unions. Catholic politicians, in particular, must oppose such laws when they are proposed. Where such laws exist, if they cannot be completely repealed, Catholic politicians may act in accord with the principles stated in Pope John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae (1995) and support proposals aimed at limiting the harmful effects of such laws, as long as the legislator's own absolute personal opposition to these laws is clear and apparent to all.

Given both the truth and the beauty of the Church's teaching on marriage, I urge all Catholics and all men and women of good will to give the most serious and thoughtful attention to these "Considerations." Because the human intellect is naturally drawn to the truth, as the human heart is drawn by nature to the good, I am confident that many a careful reader will see the wisdom of what is proposed in this document, including many who may think otherwise at first.

 



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