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.
Since that time, a news account has emerged which claims that Paglia has backtracked from his original statement. The National Catholic Reporter carried the Religion News Service story:
“A top Vatican official blamed the media for ‘derailing’ his recent remarks on possible legal protections for unmarried couples, while reaffirming his support for British and French bishops who have been vocal opponents of same-sex marriage.
“His remarks were widely repeated, with some interpreting it as a softening of the Vatican’s stance just as bishops in France and Britain are furiously opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage.
“In an interview Wednesday on Vatican Radio, Paglia said he had been ‘very surprised’ by the way his words had been reported by ‘some media.’
” ‘Not only were the words not understood … but in truth, and perhaps knowingly, they were, as it were, derailed,’ he said.
“For the archbishop, recognizing that ‘norms that protect individual rights’ can find their place in “existing (legal) systems” is “completely different” from approving same-sex marriage.
Though the archbishop may not be pleased with the way the story was reported, I think it is incorrect to say that his second statement was “backtracking” from his first one. He was very clear in the first statement that he did not support same-gender marriage. Yet, what was news about that first statement was the positive comments about protecting lesbian and gay relationships.
It does not appear that he has backtracked from those positive statements at all. And those statements were indeed a step forward. No Vatican official had ever offered any words that could be construed as an alternative way to support lesbian and gay couples, as Paglia did.
In the second news story, DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke offered the real hope that sustains many pro-LGBT Catholics:
“. . . real hope on this front comes from the people, not the hierarchy,’ as Catholics ‘continue to grow increasingly supportive of civil recognition of same-sex couples’ relationships.’ “
Paglia’s affirmative comments, as well as those recently made by French bishops and British bishops, may indicate that the positive support of lay Catholics for LGBT people is, in fact, moving up the hierarchical ladder of the church.
Paglia’s comments may not have gone as far as many of us would have liked, but they certainly are a step in the right direction. And it’s a good thing that he did not back away from that.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry