Vatican Official Calls for Protections for Same-Gender Couples

Over the course of the past year or so, we’ve witnessed a slow evolution in Catholic hierarchical thinking on marriage for same-gender couples.  Recently in France and Great Britain, bishops’ groups  have spoken more positively about same-gender couples than they had before.  In Germany and Italy, individual bishops have made positive statements about same-gender couples.  Even here in the U.S., Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George made surprisingly positive statement about love between people of the same gender, even though he opposed Illinois’ marriage bill.

Archbishop Vincent Paglia

Archbishop Vincent Paglia

Today, the positive statement on same-gender relationships comes from the Vatican itself.  The National Catholic Reporter stated:

“A high-ranking Vatican official on Monday voiced support for giving unmarried couples some kind of legal protection even as he reaffirmed the Catholic church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

“Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, also said the church should do more to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in countries where homosexuality is illegal.

“In his first Vatican press conference since his appointment as the Catholic church’s “minister” for family, Paglia conceded that there are several kinds of ‘cohabitation forms that do not constitute a family,’ and that their number is growing.

Paglia suggested that nations could find ‘private law solutions’ to help individuals who live in non-matrimonial relations, ‘to prevent injustice and make their life easier.’ “

Paglia also spoke forcefully opposing discrimination and criminalization of homosexuality:

“Responding to journalists’ questions, Paglia also strongly condemned discrimination against gay people, who he said ‘have the same dignity as all of God’s children’

” ‘In the world there are 20 or 25 countries where homosexuality is a crime,’ he said. ‘I would like the church to fight against all this.’ “

While these positive remarks are welcome, it must also be said that Paglia still strongly opposed marriage equality:

” ‘The church must defend the truth, and the truth is that a marriage is only between a man and a woman,’ he said. Other kinds of ‘affections’ cannot be the foundation for a ‘public structure’ such as marriage.

” ‘We cannot surrender to a sick egalitarianism that abolishes every difference,’ he warned, and run the risk of society becoming a new ‘Babel.’ “

Despite the continued intransigence on marriage equality,  I think it is important to note that the archbishop’s comments represent a giant step forward in terms of Vatican recognition of same-gender couples.  Even just a month ago, when the pope made harsh statements against same-gender relationships in his World Peace Day message, one could not have imagined a Vatican official making such positive comments as Paglia did.  His comments are a small change, but all change happens little by little.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

13 replies
  1. Christine
    Christine says:

    Thank you for the post, but please don’t confuse Catholic teachings about respect for human dignity with Catholic teachings about sexuality and marriage. Paragraph 2358 of the Catechism states that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” The paragraph illustrates Catholic teaching on respect for the dignity of the human person, and it is this teaching (rather than some sort of growing acceptance for same-sex marriage) that is illustrated in the examples from your article. Respect for the dignity of the human person is unrelated to whether the Catholic Church will ever accept same-sex marriage. The Church’s belief that sex must have at least the potential to be life-giving will not change. In order to better understand Catholic teaching about same-sex marriage, it might be useful for you to gain increased understanding about Catholic teaching regarding contraception. 🙂

    God bless…

  2. Terri Hemker
    Terri Hemker says:

    I’m pretty sure the author of the blog here knows all about Catholic teaching regarding contraception but it’s a good thing to point out to others who read the blog and might not know. 🙂

  3. tomfluce
    tomfluce says:

    O.K. Francis, I’ve decided that the French Bishops basically, whether or not intentional, are disingenuous participants in the public debate about same-sex marriage. Probably the English/Welsh bishops too, and Card. Paglia.

    Yeah, they do say “encouraging” things like they can envision change. They call, like Vincent Paglia does, for serious protection of LGBTQ’s in battles over laws making us illegal. But is he “dissenting” with Josef Ratzinger or just detailing #2358? And with the hordes of Catholic blog posters and Catholic newspaper editorials who condemn us so badly here in the US with the support of Catechism 2351 ff about offenses against chastity, including 2358 that says we’re depraved and intrinsically disordered? I’ve decided we need to work on the real problem, acceptance of our genuine sacrifices as equally valid as those of the hetero married. We’re only delaying getting to the center of the dissent: The deep sacrificial commitments of a marriage relationship, not the genital plumbing hookups.

    Christine, above, helped me clarify this thing today. #2358 brings us to the heart of the dissent, really an impossible dichotomy, “depraved” in #2357, worthy of “respect” in #2358, and called to total chastity in #2359. The hierarchy has had this “respect” thing for a long while, “All Our Children” etc. The theology of love (social justice, human relations) has to trump biology. I wonder whether Galileo would have thought his dissent was more valid than ours?

    More importantly are we building a “dissent with love” model with people like brother Vincent and brother Geoffrey Robinson and the like, working from within? And not just the model and theories/historical basis of dissent, but a transparent, brave, loving network of dissenters that can exert real pressure for change? Yes, change comes bit by bit, but without radical bits and big radical bits, the violence against us kills for longer times. The first step is doing “the least harm” not getting a new catechism. I cannot imagine putting up with such slow bits of change if I were anyone in slavery. (Did you hear about the Irish slaveshops for unwed mothers run by nuns that is now being investigated by the government?)

    Brother Geoffrey declined my suggestion at New Ways’ 7th last year that he be the leader of such a loving dissent network. I can understand a person’s lack of time/energy. But without the union of many people of his stature and intellectual prowess coupled with the rest of us diehards, the change will be painfully slow and the guilt will be ours for not trying harder. O.K. I also understand that the prophetic work of New Ways, Dignity and all the wonderfully supportive organizations do make our case strongly and crystal clear. But isn’t it time to create this 21st century model for dissent that leaves out excommunication/defection and everything else that, short of execution/incarceration, is still so damaging?

    What does Catholic mean? Worrying about eternal damnation because of defying a Catholic catechetical definition? Worrying about being barred from participating in the Eucharist? About a priest’s or other hierarch’s pronunciations? Yes, sexuality or rather homosexuality is in a category all by itself. Even male priests getting married to women (oh dear), and clearly women deacons, are now issues that seem ready for acceptance. But same-sex marriage is off limits even within Catholic reform groups in my experience like CTA, ACC etc. And these groups, of course, are not approved Catholic organizations to begin with. (What has happened to CALGM?) The gay thing is getting closer attention to the basic Christian commandment about love, but we’re being sidetracked with the talk about respect.

    So I’m changing my approach. I think its a trap, a distraction, getting focussed on treating LGBT’s with respect for human dignity instead of lovingly pushing the obvious (to a growing majority) truth about the essence of marriage by LGBT’s not being a thing of sexual plumbing, but about a solemn commitment to life beyond simple “natural procreation”, a sacrifice for building the social justice “loving” world-wide community. We need to teach that sexual pleasure is just as much a God-created part of such solemn unions whether hetero or homo. We need to remove the pious (sanctimonious) nosegay in #2358/59 that we must practice total abstinence and “… unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition”; that we can achieve “Christian perfection.”

    Did you see Amy Goodman today and the piece with Zach Wahls, founder of the group, “Scouts for Equality”? Wahls’ lesbian parents were actively involved in his Boy Scout activities, and he wants others to be allowed a similar opportunity. His book, “My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family” and many other stories are what we should be sending out to the likes of Brother Vincent and to other centers of influence in the Catholic (the catechetic adherents or who count themselves as “active”) Church. No more getting schmoozed by those who say we shouldn’t be discriminated against and still stick by the catechism waiting for some millennial process while we are harmed, many of us, mortally.

    So now with the English and Welsh Bishops making positive statements, I’m very wary of spending time on them with “their” topic. Let’s give them and all Catholics around the world a vision of what the next stage of “respect for human dignity” is. Let’s show them the Zach Wahls of the world. Show them that they should be –including the KofC– spending some of their money on supporting us for our solemn commitments, or least not spending any money denouncing those of us who break the mold of biological plumbing and still make the sacrifices of married life. Or maybe they should be giving their money to the poor sinners failing around #2331 and ff -sins against chastity– who are really devastating the world by breaking the 6th Commandment.

    Thanks, Francis.

  4. bjmonda
    bjmonda says:

    I wonder when the Church (Vatican) is going to understand that there is a difference between CIVIL LAW and Church Law. And Jesus was emphatic about keeping them separate.

  5. Will
    Will says:

    Sadly Paglia has now been backtracking as fast as he can once he realised that his words might have been interpreted as softening the church’s view on Gay Marriage. He has reaffirmed the Church hierarchy’s contempt for gay people and blamed the media for ‘derailing’ his comments.

    • tomfluce
      tomfluce says:

      O.K. Not surprised. My feeling after studying the French/English/Welsh bishops’ statement is that our focus (New Way’s?) or someone’s needs to be on asserting the authenticity of LGBTQs’ marriage vow. As I read it in catholicboyrichard’s blog yesterday there are plenty of those of us (Catholics) who still believe we are profligate by definition. Zach Wahl’s and all the beautiful commitment ceremonies should be what we’re working on getting into the consciousness of even our most ardent supporters. Working on getting respect is still important, of course–are we going to engage Paglia in trying to get the Pope to stop spreading those hate-generating proclamations?– but I think getting our commitment on a par (minus the procreation plumbing) with hetero marriages is the thing. Thanks!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  3. […] Pontifical Council for the Family.  (You can read the entire text of his talk here.)Paglia made headlines when he spoke favorably of legal protections for same-gender […]

  4. […] Archbishop Vincent Paglia, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, also supported legal protections short of marriage for gay and lesbian couples.  A news report […]

  5. […] have spoken positively of same-gender relationships and, while opposing marriage rights, offered an openness to alternative legal structures for LGBT […]

  6. […] Earlier this week, we reported on positive comments about same-gender couples made by Archbishop Vincent Paglia, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, and noted that it seemed to be part of a trend among international bishops in making positive statements about the relationships of lesbian and gay people. […]

  7. […] Vatican Official Calls for Protections for Same-Gender Couples. […]

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